THE TIES THAT BIND
By Castor (formerly known as Anon)
Lyta was furious. She stalked around her room with a tight energetic stride that threatened to explode any second. Just who the hell did he think he was? How DARE anyone speak to her like that? After all she'd done to help in the Shadow war and against Earth, and now...? She was always so polite, so helpful, she always did as she was asked. And what did she get for it? He barely even said 'thank you' most of the time. President of the Alliance he may be, but it was about time someone spelled out a few home truths to him. If only he KNEW what she'd had to go through to pull off that trick with the teeps in the ships, never mind that she was sending her own people to almost certain death as she did it!
She stood shaking in the middle of the room. Yes! It WAS time he knew what that took. To hell with Psi Corps rules, she'd SHOW him what she went through! She smiled grimly. She would never have done this a few weeks ago. Now, after all the things she had gone through with Byron, she had the strength she needed.
She'd ask the computer where Sheridan was, but since he became President of the Alliance, his whereabouts was not available to any and all visitors to Babylon 5. It made it too easy for assassins. It was the one stipulation of Garibaldi's to which Sheridan had reluctantly agreed. Once, she was permitted that information. Now, after the stuff with Byron, she found she was no longer considered safe. One more reason to confront him. But there were other ways to find out.
'Computer. Patch me through to C&C.'
'Accessing.' While she waited she calmed her mind and schooled her expression.
Lt. Corwin's face appeared on screen and Lyta smiled inwardly. Corwin liked her. This shouldn't be too difficult. 'Ms. Alexander? What can I do for you?'
'Hello Lieutenant. I need to speak to President Sheridan rather urgently. I wondered if you could tell me where he is?'
Corwin looked doubtful. 'He's not accepting visitors right now, Lyta. He's got a lot of paperwork.'
'I can imagine, but he wanted me to find out some things for him. He said it was OK to disturb him.' Corwin still looked dubious and Lyta tried another tactic. 'It's all right. If you can't tell me I can wait. It's probably not as important as he seemed to think. Another twelve hours shouldn't make much difference.' Under her breath, but loud enough that he would hear, she muttered 'I wonder why he didn't tell C&C? All this top secret stuff is a pain!'
'That's OK, Lyta. If the President said you were to be informed, I don't want to cause any trouble. He's in his quarters.'
'Maybe he's seeing someone else?' /Don't be *too* quick. Make him comfortable/
'Just paperwork I think. You know how it is.'
'Yeah. Thanks, David. If he doesn't want to see me he can always tell me to go away, huh?' Corwin smiled at the use of his first name and nodded. 'Good night.'
She closed the link, and looked at the chronometer. It wasn't *that* late, so he would almost certainly be awake. Delenn was off station in Tuzenor for another two weeks (which probably explained his cranky mood, but certainly didn't excuse it!), so she was certain not to be disturbed.
Another voice spoke in her head. 'And he'd have the rest of the night to recover...' She stopped abruptly. This wasn't like her. She didn't normally feel so damned vindictive. 'And THAT'S why people keep walking on you. It's time you stood up for yourself, and who better to make a mark with than the President? If he is made to see you can't be treated like that, others might stop doing so. Make your point with him, and the rest will fall into place. It's a service to yourself and other telepaths who may have to work with him in the future.' This sounded like a justification, though she wasn't sure. Then she remembered the way he'd spoken to her an hour before. That was it! It was time he learned.
Lyta marched down the corridor like a whirlwind waiting to strike. Those few people who saw her got out of her way quickly. She knew she was getting some strange looks, but she didn't care. She was so bent on her destination she didn't see Zack Allen until she'd bumped into him.
'Hey, hey, hey! Lyta. What's up?'
She shook herself. 'Nothing, Zack. I have to have a word with Sheridan and I'm a bit distracted, that's all.' She did her best to tone down her feelings. If Zack had ANY idea what she intended he'd probably lock her up.
'What sort of a word?'
'We were discussing some internal security problems, Zack. Alliance stuff.' She put on her most innocent and helpless look. 'I'm afraid I'm not allowed to talk about it. You know how it is.' She smiled. /Please let him simply accept it and let me pass!!!/
He grinned. 'Yeah. I know. Say, you fancy a pizza or somethin' later?'
'Oh Zack, I'd love to, but I have no idea how long this is going to take. Some other time, huh?'
'Yeah. Sure. Good luck with Sheridan.' He looked left and right and dropped his voice. Lyta leaned forward to listen. 'Between you and me, with Delenn gone he's a bear with a sore head. You sure you can handle him?'
'Yes, Zack. I'll be fine. Thanks!' She waved as she headed for the transport tube.
'Rather her than me! Sheesh!' He watched her enter the tube.
'Excuse me,' asked a tourist. 'Can you direct me to...' Zack turned to the tourist and all thoughts of Lyta's agitated mood when he met her fled his mind.
Lyta stood in the transport tube, almost willing it to go faster. She didn't dare actually try. She still wasn't sure WHAT the Vorlons had done to her. Telekinesis, she feared, was the least of her worries. Reaching Sheridan's quarters she activated the door announce.
'Who is it?'
'Mr President, it's Lyta Alexander. May I speak with you?' It was a lot more polite than he deserved, but...
'Ms Alexander,' came the disembodied voice over the intercom. 'I'm very busy. Could this wait until the morning?'
'I'm afraid not.' She steeled herself for an argument, but none was forthcoming. The door swung open.
She walked in to see Sheridan in his shirt sleeves poring over a pile of papers. As he looked up his face was drawn and tired. Under normal circumstances she would have simply apologised, said something about not realising just HOW bogged down he was, and that she'd talk about it some other time. But there was no smile on his face, merely a slightly annoyed inquisitory glance in her direction before he returned to his work.
'Yes. What is it?' He barely paused in his writing. She might as well not have been there. Any irresolute thoughts fled in the face of that lack of regard.
'Mr President. With all due respect, the problem is you.'
Sheridan paused in his writing and slowly looked up. 'I beg your pardon?'
Now that she could say it, it suddenly seemed so silly. Such a little thing. Her feelings, not the great worries about the Alliance he had to deal with. Still, she was here now...'It's about the way you spoke to me earlier.' She sighed, 'Look, I know you're not going to like this, but the fact is, I'm sick and tired of the way you're treating me. I feel like a tool rather than a person, and I resent your disregard for my feelings. I don't need much. Some respect, the occasional thank you, some recognition of the work I've done. At the very least, I expect you not to simply dismiss me as you did today. Or speak to me like that. It probably seems a small thing to you, but you...you just can't treat people like this.' She trailed off.
Sheridan absently rubbed his arm and winced at the pain in his chest. Indigestion. That'll teach him to rush his meals. He felt almost too tired to argue with her. He sighed.
'Ms. Alexander. I apologise for not thanking you for what you've done. And for being abrupt. I've been very busy. Ok?'
Not exactly what she was after. 'Mr President. I'm sorry, but it's easy to SAY that.'
This was absurd! An irrational anger surged through him. 'What do you *want*? I've apologised. I'll try to remember in future.'
'It should be automatic. Do you have to remember to treat Captain Lochley with respect, or Garibaldi? What have you got against me?' She began to pace the room, emphasising her words with ever wilder gesticulations. 'I've done everything you've ever asked of me. And a lot more besides. I've tried to show you that telepaths can be decent people; that we're not all like Bester. Yet you still seem to regard me as some kind of necessary annoyance.'
'I have a lot of people to deal with, Ms. Alexander. I don't thank profusely every single one of them when they do what's necessary.'
'I'm hardly just doing 'what's necessary'. And you're STILL calling me 'Ms Alexander'. I wouldn't mind, but it sounds like an insult from you now! Is there something wrong with me that you can't use my first name? We've been working together for a long time, now. What IS your problem with me?'
Sheridan stood. He felt slightly dizzy, and the indigestion was getting worse. He must have been leaning on his arm, too. It felt odd. But now she was getting on his nerves and he needed to get this sorted out so he could go back to his work. 'Look. Let's be honest here. You're a telepath. Whether you like it or not, that means you're automatically associated with 'Fascists R Us'. Plus, you were Kosh's aide. Yes, you helped us get rid of Kosh Ulkesh, and I'm grateful for that, but you're an unknown quantity. You've disappeared and done who knows what. You associated yourself with Byron and all that mess. And NOW you expect me to simply trust you? Treat you as a friend? You're lucky I don't simply kick you off the station. And I don't do THAT *because* you've done so much for us.'
'I might not have BEEN with Byron if you'd treated me better in the first place!' Why did she say that? What was it about this man that made her want to be on his side: made her angry at his rejection? The thought vanished as quickly as it had appeared as Sheridan's next salvo hit, but it left her with a slightly uneasy feeling.
'If you'd been HONEST about your whole trip to the Vorlon home world, and not been a walking enigma...'
'Like you've told us EVERYTHING about all YOUR experiences??'
'I don't have to explain myself to you!'
'So why should I tell YOU everything? Why am I different?'
'You're the one who wants me to trust you!'
Her patience snapped. 'You want to know what I've been through? You really want to know?'
Sheridan was distracted by the indigestion and didn't hear the warning in her voice. He turned away to stifle a grunt and rubbed his chest. Boy, but that meal was sitting heavily tonight.
'You asked for it.'
'What?' Sheridan turned and stepped back in the face of Lyta's expression. Myriad images assaulted him. Most of them didn't make sense, but the feelings that flooded his mind at the same time... Fear, then terror, then uncertainty, then love. A soaring, self-sacrificing love. Then there was pain. An agonising pain that he felt through his whole being. Then uncertainty again, but qualified with a sense of duty. Then betrayal on a terrible scale. More pain, resignation and then anger. Sheridan staggered. The pain was burning through him and suffocating him.
Lyta hesitated. This wasn't her. She refocused, seeing Sheridan properly again through the haze of images she had sent to him. He was pale, struggling to breathe, and as she watched he collapsed to the floor.
'No!' This wasn't what she wanted. She wanted him to know what she had gone through, but she didn't want to hurt him. Not this much. She knelt beside him. Desperate, she violated every principle left, tore off her gloves and gripped his hand, diving into his mind. This wasn't anything to do with her. This pain was Sheridan's own. But where was it coming from? 'Oh God! No. Please, god, no!' Summoning every trick she knew she blocked out the distracting pain assailing her from his mind and moved through him. Where? Where was this coming from? She could see his body as through a surgeon's camera. Veins and arteries, muscles and tendons and...There! A blockage. Nothing big. It didn't need to be. It was shutting off the blood to his heart. She could visualise it. See his heart trembling, shuddering, struggling to keep pumping. She felt his hand grip hers.
'Please!' His voice was a gasp. 'Stop this. Please. Anything!'
'I'm trying! I don't know what to do! This isn't me!' Her voice was a sob. Sheridan was dying in front of her and there was nothing she could do about it. 'Help me! Someone, help me!' She looked at the computer terminal. 'Computer. Emergency. Get me through to Medlab, fast!'
'This terminal has been deactivated. Voice authorisation code required for reactivation.'
She stared at Sheridan. 'What?'
'Interruptions. Constant. Shut it off...busy. Computer, voice authorisation over-ride Sheridan.' His voice was faint. Too faint and uncertain for the computer's software to accept. He tried again. 'Computer. Voice authorisation....Sheridan...argh.' His body convulsed, his back arching in pain, and his grip on her arm tightened, the nails digging into her.
'Help him.' The voice was faint but there nevertheless. Calm, musical, soothing and familiar. She froze. Kosh? No, it couldn't be. He'd gone when Kosh Ulkesh was killed. There was nothing left. She tried to pull away, but Sheridan's grip was like steel. She looked at his face. He was grey, and showed no sign that he'd heard the voice. Another gasp for breath and he opened his eyes to look up at her.
He had no voice. The pressure on his chest was still there, stealing the air from his lungs, although the pain had somehow lessened. His mind was beginning to swim and the world was growing dark. He tried to speak, but it was a whisper. Lyta leaned closer, but he still couldn't make her hear him. It was too hard, too much energy. He had nothing left.
In his mind he fought to construct a coherent sentence. All he could manage was 'Please.'
She stepped into his mind, and found a creeping darkness. As she struggled to keep a light in that darkness she saw a dim glow. It grew and she moved towards it. 'Kosh?'
'I believe the answer should be 'We are all Kosh'. We are all part of the Universe, all reflections of the one. But perhaps you would find it easier,' he stepped forward, and the glow decreased enough for her to see his face, '...if you called me Lorien.'
'He is dying. He needs your help.'
'But can't you...?'
'Perhaps, but he needs you. He does not understand.'
Lyta shook her head. 'He's not the only one.'
'You have gifts you have not even explored. You have hidden them, are frightened of them. You need each other.'
'You'd risk his life to teach me a lesson?'
'All life is transitory. An illusion. It is what you make of it that matters. You need to understand who you are, and what you are. He needs to remember. I did not cause this. He did. If I simply heal him he will not understand and the opportunity will be lost. It will only be a matter of time before this happens again. If anyone else heals him, YOUR chance will be lost. It is up to you.'
'But I don't know what to do!'
'You must let go of your fear, your pain, your terror. Accept those things that are yours and use them. You can see the problem. You know why it is a problem. Now use your powers to remedy it, or he will die, and there is nothing I can do about that.'
'I thought he had 20 years!'
'Barring injury or illness, yes. This is illness *and* injury. I cannot help you, or him. It is up to you.' He looked around and Lyta saw he was growing faint. 'As he dies, so dies the memory of me. You have not much time.' The voice mutated until it was partly that of Lorien, partly Kosh, and partly Sheridan. 'Help him... Help him... Help me.'
The image faded. Sheridan was still on the floor in her arms. His struggles had ceased. There was no sign of life in his face.
'Oh no you don't!' Now determined she dove into his mind again. There were glimmers of consciousness, but they were growing fainter. Rushing though his body to his heart she pictured the blockage: she visualised it dissolving and felt energy pouring out of her and into him, eating away at the clot until the path was clear. She watched, expecting an immediate response, but his heart remained still. Concentrating again she pictured the cells, saw their programming to beat and pump life through the body, and stimulated them. At first there was discord. The parts were activated piecemeal and counteracted each other, but slowly she brought them into harmony, until the whole was pumping life-giving blood and oxygen once more. She entered his mind again and saw the glimmers slowly grow brighter. Some cells were damaged and she sought to repair them. Some were beyond all repair, but the brain has a great deal of redundancy, and she watched as neurons fired and routes now defunct were bypassed and new connections made. Then she saw a powerful force, unlike any she had ever experienced before, rush through his mind, repairing and restoring cells she had missed.
It was like watching life come to the desert. A flow of energy washing over and through him, cleansing and enlivening all it touched. It flowed through the link and struck her. A searing, beautiful, almost musical power. She felt as though she had passed through a rippling wall of liquid light and come out on the other side a new being. Nothing was the same anymore. Everything within seemed bright and clean. The world around her seemed less solid, more dirty, flawed and pointless. But as her mind ranged outward it encountered pin points of light. Glorious supernovas of consciousness. Some were erratic; some burned with a dark, ruddy glow of hate and death; others were fresh and clean. And then she noticed that despite the unreality of the station, it, too, reflected a greater reality. She saw it as part of something more powerful that transcended everything else. Reflections upon reflections of life and meaning. Each part mirroring the whole, the whole the sum of the parts. All necessary and integral pieces, yet each separate. No piece was entirely dispensable, since each was a part of the greater universe. And while some were discordant, even they added to the music.
It was so beautiful she wanted to weep. As she opened her eyes she found she was weeping. And then she felt a hand reach up and capture the tear. Looking down she saw Sheridan, his hand raised to her face, his eyes now bright and wet with the same tears. He smiled.
'Now you understand.'
She struggled to find her voice, and felt the glory fade as she did so. She didn't want to lose it, but she knew where to find it again. She nodded. 'Yes.' It was barely a whisper.
They remained there for some time, Sheridan recovering and cradled in Lyta's arms, both lost in their own experience, but knowing that their thoughts flowed along similar lines. Time seemed to be standing still, or at best an irrelevancy. Feelings she had thought impossible with anyone but Byron now centred themselves on Sheridan. They had shared something so intimate it was almost sexual. She shied away from that thought. He loved Delenn. You didn't need to be a telepath to see that. But still... She could feel his weight on her. The scent of him filled her mind. She could feel his muscles tightening and relaxing as he shifted position but remained in her arms. See his chest rising and falling with each steadying breath. She suddenly felt very protective. She looked down and saw his hand still clutched in her own. The touch of skin on skin meant he could feel everything she was feeling. She tried to release him but his grip held. Nervous, she watched his face as he looked up at her.
His face showed many emotions. There was relief that the pain was over; a childlike delight in all he had seen, tinged with guilt. He had seen this before but he had forgotten it. But underneath all that, there was something else. A sense of connection with her that flowed through the link between them and washed over her. His eyes were searching her face, looking for some reassurance that she felt it too. She nodded almost imperceptibly and he closed his eyes again, satisfied. Finally he stirred, took a deep breath and struggled to his feet. He looked at the chronometer. Over 8 hours had passed since Lyta had walked in.
'When that is what you understand, I suppose a million years, even inside Z'ha'dum, doesn't feel like that long.' It was a mutter. A personal reflection not meant for general consumption. He looked down at Lyta. 'I'm sorry. I was too obsessed with the details and the practicalities. The paperwork and worries had made me forget what it was all for. What it's really all about.' He reached down and offered his hand. His grip was firm and its strength steadied her. She stood up and, instead of pulling away, accepted the offer of comfort in his arms. They stood there, once again lost in the feeling of commonality both had forgotten existed. Finally they released each other and Lyta tried to say something, but he shook his head. 'Words. They only work as another reflection. Don't try. I know.'
She nodded and smiled. 'What now?'
'We carry on. You have work to do, and so have I.'
'I can't. It's too......'
He smiled. 'It wears off. Trust me.' He looked again at the time and cleared his throat, falling back into his role as President once more. 'Thank you for being here when I needed you. We'll talk later.' He hesitated and took in her expression. The warmth returned to his voice. 'I suggest you go to the gardens. It's where I go.'
'What about you?'
He nodded towards his desk. 'Sadly, the petty details still drive me. Sometimes, 20 years seems like too long. Other times...' his voice trailed off and he stared over her shoulder. She turned and saw a picture of Delenn. Despite all the modern conveniences, Sheridan still preferred photographs of those he cared about to holovids or other mechanical recreations. He sighed. 'Other times, eternity wouldn't be long enough.'
She turned to leave. She could never get between those two, and she didn't want to. And yet, something had happened here tonight. Something they both knew would have to be addressed sooner or later. At the door she paused to observe him. He was still staring at the picture.
'Do you think it's possible to love too much?'
She looked down, considering all she had just seen. Finally she smiled a little sadly and spoke. 'No.'
She turned and left, the door shutting behind her.
The next few days went on much as they always had. The petty squabbles of the ambassadors continued, and Lyta hung near the council chamber watching as Sheridan fought to control the discordant voices. Sometimes he would see her. Often he barely acknowledged her on the surface, but she no longer took his expressions at face value. She often walked in the gardens, something she had rarely done before. When she had wanted to be alone she had always sought the silence of her quarters. Now the flowers and grass and trees felt more comfortable. She wanted to surround herself with life, but not with conflict. People struggled to find a life for themselves, plants and animals simply were. The eternal cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth were not something to be fought but merely accepted. It was what you did with them that mattered. As she was mulling over these thoughts she felt someone come up behind her.
'When you no longer worry about who you are, or what you are, but can simply Be.' She looked up to see Sheridan gazing over the landscape. 'I thought I might find you here.'
She nodded. 'Every day. Was that Lorien?'
'Uh huh. When I was at Z'ha'dum. Though the Buddhists have a similar approach. Delenn is returning tomorrow.' He sat down beside her on the grass.
She didn't seem the least surprised at the non sequitur. 'And?'
'I think we need to talk. All of us.' He reached out and covered her hand with his own.
It seemed so natural, so right, she didn't even consider withdrawing. They'd shared something remarkable. There was no turning back now. She watched his fingers close around hers.
'We've done nothing wrong.'
He squeezed and then lifted her hand to his lips, kissing the back of it gently. 'No, but I think we're about to.' He lowered her hand and gazed up at the roof where the sky was replaced by more land. It was an eerie sensation until you got used to it. 'I want her to understand.'
'Is it necessary?'
He looked down, tracing the pattern of veins with his fingers. 'Yes. We both know things have changed. We can't ignore it.'
'She knows you love her. You don't love me. Not that way, anyway.'
'Love's a poor word. Did you know the Greeks have four words for love?' he chuckled. 'One of those bits of useless information you pick up when you're President. But most of our society can be traced back to the Greeks, yet we only get one word to cover that emotion in all its variants. And you know, even four isn't enough.' He turned to face her, raising his hand to her face and stroking an errant hair away from her cheek. She didn't need to be told, or given permission. Gently, smoothly, with an ease that belied their infrequent experience, she entered his mind. He was waiting for her there.
'You can make her understand. I can't. That's why I need you there. She sees so much, but I can't show her this.' She saw him gesture around him and, for a brief instant, she saw a glimpse of the beauty they had experienced together two weeks before in his room.
'She may not want to see it. I can't force her.'
'She has to understand. I just had a check up from Franklin. Experiences can't be made as though they never were. He saw what had happened. He can't understand it, and I wouldn't explain it to him, but it's in the records. Delenn has access to them. We made a deal, you see. She wanted to know when, so...' he shook his head, and she felt a deep tearing pain rush through him. Not physical, but emotional. The pain and fear of a separation that has to be. He smothered it ruthlessly, with an ease born of bitter experience, and gave her a half smile which didn't reach his eyes. She reached out to him, gripping his hand in support. He nodded and continued. 'Anyway, she needs to be able to prepare herself. I gave permission. She'll check as soon as she returns.'
'She doesn't have to know I was there.'
'I want her to. I need her to, and so do you. Have you explored the power that you have, Lyta? Have you tried to find out who you are?'
She shook her head. 'I don't want to know. It...well, frankly it frightens me.'
'It IS you, Lyta. You can't be afraid of yourself. That's the one person you can never hide from.'
'I know. But it ISN'T me. It's what the Vorlons made me.'
'No. It's what you always were. It's what we all are, we just don't know it yet. And here,' he indicated the swirling universe around them. 'Here is where we discover ourselves. Not out there. That's all shadows and distractions. This is the real world.'
'I can't give it up, can I? I can't go back to what I was.'
'You never were, you know that.'
She nodded. 'When?'
'Delenn'll decide the time for us. I'll not force the issue. She's got enough on her plate right now. Minbar is still unsettled after the civil war, and everyone is turning to her to solve the situation, even if they won't listen to her solutions.'
'You know where to find me.' He grinned and she heard Kosh's words, echoing through his memory /I have always been here./ She chuckled, 'That's more true than we knew, isn't it?'
He pulled her towards him. She felt his arms around her, firm and sure, and she responded, leaning into his kiss in a way she never dreamt she would. She knew that anyone watching them on the grass would simply see two people sitting, looking at each other. She wondered if he'd removed his physical hand from her face. It was a fairly deserted section of the gardens, and it wasn't as if they were doing anything improper out there. In here though...
She pulled away. 'We shouldn't. Not even like this.'
'I know.' But still he let his hands wander across her body, and wherever his hands went, his eyes followed. She tried not to respond, to deny what was building inside her, but it felt so right. Finally he stopped and pulled away, and a pain washed through her.
'Why did I start, or why did I stop?'
'Because you understand. Because we're one in soul and experience, and I want to know you as well as I know myself. And because you're right. We have to wait for Delenn.'
Lyta didn't have to say anything. They both knew this would be awkward.
She pulled back and was once more sitting on the grass. 'Do I get a warning?' She was almost joking. Almost...
'You'll know.' He lay back on the grass, his hands behind his head. 'I shouldn't really be here. There's another meeting in 10 minutes. I really ought to be preparing more papers. Any second now...'
'Yep. There it is.' He sat up, 'Over here, Captain.' Lochley came around a hedge and paused, briefly, before advancing on them. Lyta suddenly felt awkward. Sheridan grunted. 'She does that to you. There's no sin in two people sitting in the gardens chatting.'
He was right, but she also knew they had done a great deal more than just 'chat'. She schooled her expression as Lochley approached.
'Mr President. The Llort and Hyach ambassadors wish to see you urgently, before the meeting. We've been trying to contact you for an hour, but your link wasn't responding.' Lochley pointedly ignored Lyta and, for her own part, Lyta tried to ignore the feeling of censure the Captain was broadcasting.
'All right. I'm on my way. I just needed some air before I faced another meeting.' He pressed a button on his link and it blinked into life. Corwin's voice came out of the link, sounding flustered.
'Mr President? Mr President, the Llort and...'
'I know, Lieutenant. Captain Lochley is here. Sheridan out.' He got to his feet and brushed the grass from his trousers. Lochley was contemplating Lyta and her expression showed she disapproved of the whole situation. Sheridan decided to tackle it head on. 'Was there something else?'
Lochley drew herself up and faced him squarely, covering her actual concerns with more practical ones. 'Mr President, I wonder if it's wise for you to sit out here so, well, so exposed to potentially dangerous observers.'
'Are you referring to Ms Alexander or some ethereal assassin after my blood?' There was a smile in his voice, but Lochley refused to back down.
'With all due respect, sir. Both.'
'What I choose to do with my spare time, and who I choose to spend it with is my affair, Captain. I'll not call a security guard every time I need a stroll in the gardens. I wished to speak to Ms Alexander and I found her. End of discussion. I'll see you in the Council Chamber to go over the implications of my discussions with the ambassadors later. Say, 18.00 hours?'
Lyta had to admire his coolness. Her own nerves were somewhat less steady, but she returned Lochley's near hostile regard with a calm expression that belied her inner turmoil.
Lochley snapped to attention. A rather formal act for her, and hardly appropriate to a civilian. It was yet another indication of her opinion of the situation she had encountered. 'Sir!'
Sheridan raised an eyebrow at her actions, but said nothing. He turned to Lyta. 'Thank you, Ms. Alexander. We'll finish this later.' He turned and, with one last glance at Lochley, left the garden.
The minute he was out of ear shot Lochley turned to Lyta. 'What the hell's going on?'
'Captain, if the President doesn't feel it's any of your business I'm certainly not going to discuss it in his absence.'
Lochley put her hands on her hips and shifted her feet to a more solid stance. 'OK, let's be blunt. I don't like what I saw here. After all we've been through with telepaths I have to say that I don't trust you, and if I consider you a threat I WILL respond.'
'So you consider two people chatting in the gardens a threat?'
'It's a warning, Ms Alexander, nothing more.'
Lyta stood up and stared at Lochley. 'I don't take kindly to warnings, Captain, whether spoken by you or anyone else. I've had my share in the fight to build this Alliance and kick out Clark, and I'm in no hurry to see his particular brand of intolerance flourishing again, especially as I've done nothing to deserve it. I suggest you take your suspicions elsewhere.'
'Are you saying they're unfounded?'
'I'm saying it's none of your concern. Good day, Captain.' She walked away. Lochley's voice followed her.
'In case you've forgotten, I'm still Captain of this station. Everything here is my concern.'
Lyta turned. 'Then I suggest you take it up with President Sheridan. He must be your concern too.'
Lochley watched Lyta leave. 'Always, Ms Alexander,' she muttered. 'Always.'
Sheridan was there to meet Delenn's ship when it arrived. A Ranger quickly took charge of her bags leaving her free to accept Sheridan's welcoming kiss.
'You look tired. How was it on Minbar?' He held her shoulders, his face full of concern.
'Tiring, as you say. If they must make me the voice of reason it would be nice if they actually listened to me every once in a while. You?'
'The usual. Bickering, fighting, blinkered petty-mindedness. And endless paperwork.'
'Perhaps we could take a break from it tonight?' The suggestion in her voice and eyes was clear, and Sheridan smiled.
'I booked us a table at Fresh Air. I didn't think either of us would want to cook tonight.'
She shook her head. 'Couldn't we order in? I have had enough of crowds for a while, and whenever we eat out someone always finds an excuse to speak to us. I want to have you to myself tonight.'
'All right. I have a meeting in 20 minutes. See you afterwards? Your quarters?'
He put his arm around her shoulders and she returned the hug as they walked out of the docking bay. 'Sounds perfect.'
While Sheridan dealt with the latest crises, Delenn caught up with the past two weeks, sifting through the reports that had piled on her desk and on her computer. By the time her door opened to admit Sheridan she was frowning. He took off his jacket, draping it over a settee before kissing her and going to the kitchen for some juice.
'Something wrong?' he said, pouring the drink.
'I just read Dr Franklin's report.'
He stared into the glass, wishing she kept scotch in her quarters. She stared at his back for a moment and then got up and walked to the kitchen.
'Why didn't you say something?'
He turned around, glass in hand, and contemplated the contents for a moment longer before putting it on the counter and facing her. 'What is there to say? I'm OK.'
She looked at the report in her hand and read aloud. ' 'Evidence of major myocardial infarction.' I wish doctors would learn to use a language people understood. I had to look that up. 'As yet I have not pinpointed the cause of the attack, nor the patient's subsequently remarkable state of good health.'' She looked up. Sheridan shrugged.
'See? 'Remarkable state of good health.' I'm fine, Delenn. There's no need for you to worry.'
'You have a major heart attack which somehow cures itself and you say I have no need to worry?'
'I contacted Dr Franklin. He is not satisfied that Lorien's gift to you could have cured this. He's amazed you're still walking around. He says he asked you what happened, but you wouldn't tell him.' She put the report down on the table behind her and looked at him. 'I would like to know what happened.' Her voice seemed calm, but he could see she was fighting for control. Her body was shaking and her eyes showed evidence of crying.
He picked up his glass and walked to the settee, taking a sip as he sat down and then set the glass on the table next to the report. He stared at his hands as he spoke. 'I was working late. I thought it was indigestion.' She snorted and he looked up. 'It's not unusual. Our bodies can send confusing messages. I carried on working. Then Lyta turned up.'
Delenn had been walking to the settee as he spoke and looked up sharply as she took her seat. 'Lyta? What was she doing there?'
'Trying to teach me some manners. I've been pretty dismissive of her lately. She'd had enough. While we...talked... I began feeling worse. As she made her point I collapsed.'
Delenn covered the gasp which escaped her with her hand, her eyes brimming with tears. He sighed and carried on. This was not going to be easy.
'I'd turned off the com-panel because I wanted to be left undisturbed. She couldn't call medlab and I couldn't reactivate the panel. So she did what she could. Lorien gave me a gift, but it wasn't enough. If she hadn't been there...' He trailed off, assessing Delenn's expression before continuing. 'The Vorlons gave her some remarkable powers. Powers she's only just learned to appreciate. She used them to help me. Once she cured the problem, Lorien's gift could take over and finish the job. She was still in here,' he tapped his temple, 'when his healing took over. We shared a part of one another. Saw a glimpse of the source of all that power. Saw how it all fitted together with the universe...WAS the universe. I can't explain it any better.' He looked up to gauge her response. She was still watching him carefully. 'Lyta might be able to explain it better to you.'
Delenn looked down at her hands where they fingered the edging of her robe. 'Was that why you were out talking to her in the gardens yesterday?' She looked up. 'Captain Lochley thought I ought to know.'
'Captain Lochley should mind her own business.'
'She feels it IS her business, and you haven't answered my question.'
'We were discussing this. I told her you would find out. I wanted her to be prepared. She can explain it better than I can. She can show you.' He moved to Delenn's end of the settee, pulling her into his arms. At first she resisted, and then she responded. 'I'm all right. Nothing else matters right now.' He stroked her hair, kissing her forehead before holding her tight. 'Nothing else. Shh.'
Delenn contemplated Lyta's back as the latter sat in a quiet part of the garden. Sheridan had told her Lyta would be there during a conversation they had shared into the early hours of the morning. A conversation that by turns had gone through tears, comfort, fear and love-making. Sheridan had agreed to Delenn talking to Lyta alone. Indeed, he had suggested it. It was important to him that Delenn felt everything was above board. Especially considering where this might lead. Delenn walked out from under the trees.
Lyta drew a breath and Delenn saw her back straighten. 'Hello, Delenn. Take a seat.' She indicated the grass beside her.
Delenn sat down, arranging her dress about her. 'I've heard John's version. He says you could explain it better.'
'I can show you. Do you want me to?'
Delenn nodded and closed her eyes as Lyta placed her hand near to Delenn's face and communicated all that had happened.
Meanwhile, Sheridan had a few words to share as well.
Lochley came into his office and stood to attention. 'Mr President?'
Sheridan looked up from the papers he was reading, contemplated her stance for a few seconds and then leaned back, dropping the flim on his desk. 'I'd say 'at ease', Captain, but you know this isn't gonna be easy. So let's start at the top, shall we? Where the hell do you get off telling my wife about my private affairs?'
'I felt it constituted a threat to station security.'
'I don't give a damn about your feelings, Captain. I DO give a damn about Delenn's. Did it occur to you that I would tell her myself when she returned?'
'As Captain of this station I must report any and all activities that I consider may be a threat to station or Alliance security.'
'To the head of the Alliance. That's me!'
'In this situation, I felt there would be a conflict of interests. And, with all due respect Mr President, if this were NOT a problem you wouldn't be hauling me over the coals like this.'
Sheridan got out of his chair. 'Oh, I haven't BEGUN to haul you over the coals yet, I can assure you. This isn't about security, and you know it, so let's take the gloves off, shall we? This is a personal opinion based on your brief experience as my wife.'
Lochley bristled. 'Gloves off?' Sheridan nodded. 'In that case, while security is still my top priority, I agree my actions were prompted by past experience. But it's perfectly acceptable and, indeed, demanded of Earthforce personnel that they bring to bear any and all knowledge that might be relevant in a given situation.'
'Let's hope Delenn never asks your opinion of my sex drive!' Sheridan muttered.
'That was a cheap shot!'
'About as cheap as your suggesting I've been having an affair with Lyta behind her back.'
'That's not what I said.'
'It's what you implied. Tell me, Captain. Has anything in your VAST experience with me led you to the belief that I'm a philanderer?'
Lochley looked down. 'No.'
'So what mental aberration made you to leap to that spectacular conclusion on this occasion?'
Lochley paused, contemplating her reasoning. 'I'd noticed Lyta was hanging around you. Outside the Council Chamber, in the gardens. When I came upon you two the other day you appeared to be in an … intimate situation.'
'We were talking.'
'You were dead silent and your hand was on her face.'
'She's a telepath, Captain. Private conversations need not be carried out with words.'
'And given our recent experiences with telepaths, wouldn't you say I'm justified in wondering at a conversation that couldn't be held verbally in such a quiet place?'
'Sometimes, words are not as expressive as we may wish. Images can be much more powerful, and considerably faster.'
Delenn was finding out just how expressive images could be. Lyta had shown Delenn all the experiences that had led her to confront Sheridan that night. She winced at the feelings of betrayal and hurt Lyta associated with his constant dismissals and use of her. By the time she saw Lyta standing outside Sheridan's door, Delenn was ready to have a few words with him about common decency herself. All those feelings fled, however, as she saw him collapse in pain and saw the cause of it. She felt Lyta's own remorse at being the catalyst, and was about to say something when Kosh's voice filled her mind. Stunned, she watched as though in a dream as Lorien revealed himself and explained what had to be done. As the power of Lorien's gift flowed through Sheridan and into Lyta, so it flowed into Delenn. Her heart surged as all the teachings in which she had been instructed since before she could remember took tangible form and swept her away. She saw Sheridan and Lyta share something unique: something based on their common experiences with the First Ones. Saw something beyond the physical bind them together in a way utterly different from the connection she had with him, and she knew this was as real and as necessary as the bonds of love they shared.
She fell back, breaking the connection and saw Lyta deflate as she tried to gather her strength once more. She drew a deep breath before speaking.
'You've made me understand. I see now what will happen. What MUST happen. And while I cannot say it makes me happy, I do understand why it must be so. And it is better if it is done openly with my consent, is it not?' Lyta looked up, amazed at the ease of Delenn's acceptance. 'You know John and I love each other. You know that, too, is a special bond, but before you take the final step with him, I want the three of us to know where we all stand. You will never stand between us, Lyta, because the ties that bind you to him are different. You can no more share in those than I can share in your experiences with the First Ones. Our relationships to John are, by their very nature, different and distinct. But, to Minbari, three is sacred. You, me and John; you, John and the First Ones; myself, John, and our son.'
Lyta stared. 'You mean you're...?'
Delenn nodded. 'I haven't told him yet. I think it is time I did.'
'Why are you telling me this? Now, of all times?'
'To remind you that we are different. We both need him, Lyta. After what you have shown me I'd have to be blind not to see it. But we need him in very different ways. I see it all now, and I see you are not the threat that Captain Lochley suggested. But then, she does not understand, nor could she.' Delenn thought for a moment. 'Three women, one man. Everything comes down to three. How loudly must the universe cry out before I open my ears to hear?'
'Um Delenn? About Lochley. Ahh, you're not suggesting...'
Delenn smiled. 'No, I'm not. She is the past. I am the present. If what you have just shown me is true, and I believe it is, what you will share with John will be the beginning of the future. It is how things will one day be between peoples and races and species. A joining beyond the physical.' She looked down at the lawn and then let her gaze rove outward while Lyta watched her, waiting. 'John and I are so close it is heartbreaking. I envy you, Lyta. You will experience something for which I must wait until I join him in the place where no shadows fall.' Delenn turned back and there were tears in her eyes. 'And as much as I want to be with him where no physical barriers can get between us, I do not want that time to come so soon.'
Lyta wanted to reach out and give whatever comfort she had, but she knew that there was nothing more to say. What would be, would be, and Delenn now knew that the dark future of loneliness that lay ahead would, one day, come to an end. The universe would bring her together with the other half of her soul.
Delenn smiled, as though she had heard Lyta's thoughts. 'I know. But physical bodies can be, ah, stubborn? Thank you, Lyta. I was frightened of the future. Despite all I had learned and believed, or thought I believed, there is always that moment of doubt, isn't there? I seem to have experienced a lot of doubts since I became more human. But now I know. I still fear, but it is no longer fear of the unknown, and that, I think, is the greatest fear of all.' She stood up, brushing the grass from her skirts and smoothing them.
Lyta remained seated, watching her. Finally, seeing Delenn's hesitation, she prompted her. 'When?'
'My quarters. Don't worry. I will not interfere. But I do not want Captain Lochley to have any more ammunition. This way she will know I approve, if she finds out at all. And we should have some ceremony.'
'A religious stamp of approval?'
'This is not entirely unknown among my people. I have only heard of the ceremony being used twenty times in the past one thousand years. It is rare, but then the circumstances are special and rare.'
'What must I do?'
'Very little. John and I must share the burden of this ceremony. We will begin tonight. If all goes well, you will arrive at seven o’clock Earth Standard time tomorrow evening to complete it. It is usual among my people to fast and pray that day, in an effort to become one with the universe. In this case I do not believe that is required, since the aim has already been achieved.'
Lyta shook her head. 'Sometimes the ceremony itself is what's important, not whether the aim is achieved or not. I'll prepare myself as you ask.'
Delenn bowed to Lyta. 'Tomorrow night, then. Goodbye.'
Lyta watched her retreating form and smiled, sadly. While Delenn's voice had been firm, her eyes and thoughts had betrayed her. Lyta was determined that Delenn would not regret this sacrifice. There had to be something she could do. Before tomorrow night, she would find it.
Lochley was sitting alone in Earheart's, nursing a drink. The sight was unusual enough that Franklin, who had just come off shift, decided to investigate.
He thanked the barmaid for his drink, and wandered over. 'Captain? Are you all right?' She was lost in her thoughts and didn't respond. Franklin tried again. 'Captain?'
She looked at him, slightly startled. 'I'm sorry, doctor. Is there something I can do for you?'
'Actually, I was thinking maybe I could help you. May I?' He indicated the empty seat beside her. She nodded. 'What's wrong?'
'Nothing very important, thank you. Just annoyed with myself.'
'Anything I can do?'
'Short, swift kick in the pants?' She was smiling, but there was something else.
'Well, I wouldn't normally recommend it, medically speaking, but if you insist...' He took a sip of his drink, watching her reaction. 'Any particular reason, or do you just need it on general principles?'
She looked at him, wondering whether she wanted to talk. Finally, she made her decision. If you can't talk to your doctor, who can you talk to? 'I'm worried about President Sheridan.'
Franklin raised his eyebrows. 'What's up?'
'I think I may have put my nose where it wasn't wanted.' She sighed and shook herself. 'I'm not even sure why I'm feeling like this. I mean, what he wants to do in his private life is his affair, but I feel like I should intervene.'
'I saw he's been spending a lot of time with Lyta Alexander. I, um, I told Delenn.'
Franklin whistled. 'Whoops.'
'You think I was wrong too?'
'Depends on your motivations, I suppose.'
'And I'm no longer sure I know what they were. I mean, at first I thought it was simply the fact that he was talking to a telepath. After all the trouble we've had of late...But then I started to think. John...' She paused and shook her head. Franklin waved it aside. '...I mean, President Sheridan said I'd done it because I used to be his wife.'
'And you think it was?'
'I don't know. Maybe. Ah hell, yes.' She lowered her voice, even though no one could have over-heard them. 'I still care about him, Stephen. He has a tendency not to see trouble when it's right in front of him. I don't want him to make a terrible mistake. I like Delenn, and I'm glad he's found someone to spend the rest of his life with. Someone who understands him and makes him happy. I never could.'
'You're both career military and strong willed. Clashes were inevitable.'
She shook her head. 'Oh no. Not like this. You should have seen it, but you'd've needed a flak jacket and a helmet. I've seen bar brawls that were more civilised. And you know, despite that, I still care about him. He's a friend, Stephen. We couldn't stay together as husband and wife, but once we were divorced we could treat each other as friends again. I know how much he needs someone to support him. I'm afraid he's gonna screw it up, like he did with me.'
'It takes two, you know. You were young, inexperienced, and strong willed. Delenn is strong willed, but in a different way. And he's older and more experienced.' Franklin contemplated his drink for a moment. Could he tell her why there would NEVER be a threat to Delenn? Would she believe him? Sheridan had told the command crew what had happened at Z'ha'dum, but as far as Franklin knew, he had never told Lochley. Was it an oversight? Did he simply not want to share it with anyone else, or was his omission based on a need not to hurt her anymore? He looked at Lochley. She was clearly confused and worried. He decided to take the bull by the horns. 'Captain. Has the President ever told you what happened to him at Z'ha'dum?'
Lochley looked quizzically at Franklin, confused by the apparent non sequitur. 'He told me he'd gone there. It's in the reports anyway. He blew up the Shadow base.'
'Ever wonder how he survived it?'
'He jumped into a hole, didn't he?'
'Yeah. Two and a half miles deep.'
'I did wonder how a simple hole in the ground could protect him from radiation. I thought Z'ha'dum had high concentrations of lead or something.'
'Actually, the radiation was only a part of the problem. Impact was the other.'
Lochley sighed. 'Ok doctor. I should have known it would be more complicated. Nothing here is ever straightforward. Let's hear it.'
Lochley stared at Franklin, trying to tell if he was joking with her, but the seriousness of his expression told her he wasn't. 'I don't understand. I mean, I heard people saying he'd died and come back from the dead, but I thought that was some kind of metaphor. You know, a sort of, ah, spiritual rebirth or something?' She shook her head. 'You know, now I think about it, John never was much of a one for mystical stuff apart from his time with the Dalai Lama, and that was firmly rooted in common sense. I guess I never wondered. What happened? I assume I haven't been talking to a ghost since I came on board?'
'Look, he told the command crew and the ambassadors when he got back. I don't think I'm violating any kind of patient/doctor confidentiality. He really ought to have told you when you came aboard. You need to know this. I don't think he wanted you to worry. You know what he's like.' Lochley nodded and Franklin took a deep breath. 'There was someone there. A being called Lorien. He was one of the First Ones. He looked like just another alien species, but he was a being of light, millions of years old. Heck, billions. He had power. He gave Sheridan back a portion of his life. Enough to get the job done. But it's limited. He won't go on forever. Delenn knows this, so do we. He knows he's a ticking clock, running down. He wants to make the most of every second. He can't afford not to.'
Lochley was trying hard not to show any emotion, but the effort was plain. Finally she cleared her throat. 'How long?'
'Lorien said twenty years. He has just under 19 left.' Lochley remained silent and Franklin continued, 'so I don't think you need worry. Whatever is going on, there'll be a good reason for it. A man doesn't stop loving a woman when she's brought him back from the dead. They'll sort it out. The best thing you and I and all of us can do is be there when we're needed, and stay out of the way until then.' His link beeped. 'Damn!' He tapped it, 'Franklin here.'
'Doctor, I'm sorry, but we've got an emergency here and we need some help.'
'Why can't Dr Hobbes handle it?'
'She's trying, doctor, but the Pak'Ma'Ra is being particularly difficult, and she's never seen anything like this before. It looks like their version of Chicken Pox, but with quite violent symptoms. We could really use some help.'
'All right, all right. I'm on my way.' He turned to Lochley, 'Captain, I'm sorry...'
She shook her head. 'That's your job. I'll be fine. I have a lot to think about.'
'Well, if you need to talk, let me know. Um, look, maybe you'd better keep quiet to John about this. I mean, he may have forgotten to tell you, or assumed it was in the reports...'
Lochley shook her head. 'Don't worry, Stephen. I know the drill where John is concerned.' Franklin nodded and left. Lochley downed the rest of her drink and left Earheart's. When she got back to her room she locked the door, went to a chair and curled up in it, her hands around her knees, sobbing.
Delenn had spent the rest of the day gathering the materials she would need for the ceremony and preparing her room. Strictly speaking, tonight she was supposed to be in John's quarters, but most of the symbols she needed were here, and carrying them to his would only raise suspicions. Particularly if a well read Minbari were to see them and put two and two together.
At 7.15 the door chime rang and Sheridan entered, clearly confused. 'Delenn? I thought it was my turn tonight?'
'I spoke to Lyta this afternoon.'
'She will be here tomorrow night. Before this can go ahead, there is a ceremony I would like to perform. Lyta has agreed. Now it is up to you.'
He was about to make a quip about how the Minbari seemed to have ceremonies to cover even the most bizarre situations, but one look at her face as she busied herself with her preparations told him now was neither the time nor the place. Her movements were frantic, as though she were burying herself in the known to forget its purpose.
'It's all right John. I'll be fine. I just have to get this...DAMN!'
Sheridan raised his eyebrows. Delenn never swore. As he watched she slammed down the knife she had been using and braced herself against the counter. There was blood trickling from her finger, and it dripped unheeded as her back shook with emotion.
Quickly covering the distance between them he took her hand and examined the cut. It wasn't deep but, like most cuts there, it bled profusely. He raised her finger to his mouth and gently sucked on it. She continued to stare at the counter as he carried out his ministrations. Finally satisfied the bleeding had slowed, he pulled a clean handkerchief from his pocket and wrapped it around her finger. Then he put his hands on her shoulders and turned her to face him, pulling her into his arms and comforting her as best he could.
'I love you. Nothing will ever change that.'
'I know. I do understand. Truly. Lyta MADE me understand. But it does not make this any easier to bear.' She pulled back and looked into his face. 'She will know you in a way I never will in this life. I envy her, John. I want to share in it, but I know I cannot.'
'And she can never share what we have.' He took her hand touching it to his heart. 'You are here.' He tapped his temple. 'She is here. She'll never be where you are.'
'And I can never be where she is. Is it wrong of me to want to be everything to you?'
'If it is, then we're both sinners.' He smiled a little sadly and held her again.
When he felt she was ready to talk once more he pulled back and led her to the settee. 'Now, what's involved in this ceremony?'
She took a deep breath. She was on solid ground here, and her manner slowly changed to something more business-like as she forced her personal feelings into the background. 'The joining must be based on full understanding of each person's part in the overall design. On Minbar we have The Dreaming wherein we can share our minds. Here, Lyta will help us. As I know what you have shared, so she must know what we share. There must be no secrets, otherwise the whole will be based on a falsehood and must become false in its turn. It is too important for that to be allowed to happen. I have to surrender you willingly to her. To that end, I must show you my love is strong enough to bear this. You must accept that love without reservation, and so show that your feelings for me are not diminished. After your joining with Lyta,' she was struggling once more, and Sheridan took her hands in his and squeezed them in an effort to reassure her. She cleared her throat and continued. 'After your joining, you will come back to me. You must then show me that your love has not been affected and we are still one, and I must accept it in the same way.'
He nodded. 'OK. How do we begin?'
'First, we will share the meal I have prepared. Then I will cleanse myself both physically and mentally, before I call you in to bathe you. You must not do anything yourself. Then I will make love to you. Again, you must not give, only receive. When we are finished, you will return to your quarters. Tomorrow night, you will come here. Lyta has offered to share in the fasting part of the ritual. Whether you do so is up to you. The aim has been achieved already between you two,' her voice cracked and Sheridan felt his eyes stinging as he fought his own tears. The magnitude of what she was doing frightened him. How much must she love him to be able to do this? To violate the ultimate taboo of human society and, he was certain, Minbari too, in the name of something she didn't understand which surpassed all such restrictions.
'Delenn, look, it's not too late. We don't have to do this.'
She shook her head. 'No. We must. If we do not do this openly, it will happen in the dark. The path has already been chosen and it cannot be avoided. When souls belong together it will happen, no matter what we put in their path. Just as it happened with us.' She smiled. The first smile he had seen all evening. But her eyes still sparkled with suppressed tears.
'But if it's wrong...'
'There are some things that are simply right or wrong, but there are many others whose nature depends upon circumstances and customs and the intentions and understanding of those participating. Your Japanese society has a saying, I believe: 'The sign says keep off the grass, but the wind cannot read'. There are some forces that will always over-ride whatever custom or law or traditional morality say is acceptable. This is one of those situations. I have learned to accept such things, since to deny them only leads to greater pain.'
He nodded slowly. 'Are you gonna be OK?'
'I will be better when it is over and you have come back to me. But I would be a fool if I thought that by denying this we could stop it. And I would rather it happened openly than...than...' She choked on the words.
Sheridan took her hands in his and held them tightly. 'You're right. It's....it's weird Delenn. No one's ever been able to see what Lorien showed me. I'd almost forgotten it myself. And then to share it with someone like that...' He trailed off, staring into space. Delenn's eyes were wide as she watched him, seeing reflected in his face the glory of all that he had seen. She'd had a taste of it thanks to Lyta, but it was only a reflection of what they had shared. He shook himself and smiled at her. A smile filled not just with the wonder of that moment, but also the love he had for her. 'It'll be all right. And I'll fast too. Then what?'
She nodded and continued. 'We will join together in mind. With her help, we will share with her what we have. She must know that whatever happens will not affect us. If you have any doubts you must share them.'
'Doubts? About anything else I'd say I've nothing but doubt. But about my love for you? No.'
She smiled, willing herself to accept his assurances. 'Afterwards, you will join with Lyta. I will not leave, but I will remain out here to give you privacy.' Memories of the Shon'Fal ceremony filled his mind. His expression must have reflected it because she leaned forward and kissed him. 'Only me, my love. No one else.'
'Hmm. All right. Should I help you finish preparing the meal?'
'No. This part of the ceremony is up to me. There is a robe in my quarters. You should change into it. The meal will be ready shortly.'
He went to stand up, but felt her body tense as he moved. /To hell with ceremony/ he thought. 'Delenn. Your ceremonies are for Minbari. I'm human. So are you, in part. I'm not very good at this, you know that. I know you're too tense right now for me to be able to arouse you even if I tried, but let me do something before we start.' He undid the belt which held her tunic closed and pushed the latter from her shoulders.
'No John. We mustn't. The ritual...'
'At the risk of blasphemy, the ritual can wait. I want to help you. Just for a little while.' He stood up and reached out to her. 'Let me? Please?'
She hesitated and then stood up, her tunic falling from her shoulders as she did so. He scooped her up in his arms and took her to the bedroom. She shied away from the bed as though it were a monster, but he coaxed her into lying on it, face down and, straddling her, he began to work on the muscles of her back and shoulders. As he worked he talked. He described his feelings for her; when he first began to realise he'd fallen in love with her. He talked of little things she did that made him laugh, and how proud he was of her. How frightened he had been when she went back to Minbar, and how relieved when she'd returned to him in one piece. He tried to put into words his feelings on Z'ha'dum when he realised she was the only thing in his life that gave that life meaning. He spoke of his vision of the future. When he mentioned their son she stifled a gasp. He was so lost in his ministrations he barely noticed, instead telling how much he looked forward to the day when she would tell him she was pregnant. That, even more than his sure touch, helped to ease the tensions within her.
He felt her muscles relax and smiled to himself. Something of what he fought to convey was getting through. The rest would be made clear with Lyta's help tomorrow. He carried on for a while and then leaned down and brushed her hair aside to kiss the back of her neck.
'Better?' he whispered.
'Yes.' She rolled over as he moved to lie beside her. 'Thank you.' After a slight pause she got up and walked to the door. He watched her from the bed.
She stopped in the doorway, her hand on the frame. 'Yes?'
'If you ever doubt my love for you, remember Z'ha'dum? You are, and always will be, my reason for living. You gave me 20 years, Delenn. That's a hell of a lot more than I deserved, and I don't plan to waste them. I have to do this with Lyta. There's something there I need to understand, but it won't make a difference between us.'
'It will,' she said sadly. 'It always does.' She turned and walked into the lounge.
/Damn!/ If only he could learn to shut up while he was ahead. He sat up on the bed, leaning on his elbows. He could see her shadow passing to and fro across the glass partition as she busied herself in the kitchen. There was nothing left he could say. The only way she would believe him now would be to act. 'Damn,' he muttered softly as he swung his legs off the bed and stood up.
Delenn heard him go to the bathroom briefly and then move around in the bedroom. She finished preparing the food and had put the last plate on the table as Sheridan walked in, the robe belted around his waist.
As opposed to the white robes he was used to seeing during ceremonies, this one was a dark grey, verging on black. He took hold of the lapels and looked at her. 'Should I ask?'
'The ceremony has been performed 20 times in the last 1,000 years. Only the times when it worked have been recorded in any detail.' She looked down at the cutlery and re-arranged it carefully before looking up. 'There are eight detailed records. When the ceremony began we used white. As the ceremonies failed the colour grew darker. Now it is near black. It is sullied by those who entered into it with false intentions. It is a reminder to those wearing it of the responsibility they carry,' she paused before continuing, 'and of the risks to those who give it.'
'Then I'll do my best to make it white for you, Delenn.' He looked at the place settings. 'No plate for Valen?'
'While records of the ceremony have not survived since before Valen, the ceremony itself predates him. It was felt that, given the circumstances, a third at a table which would soon hold three anyway would be bad luck.'
He nodded and took the place she indicated, sitting cross legged on the floor as she served the meal. Mindful of his past experiences with Minbari customs he picked up the fork with his right hand and waited for her to start. She inclined her head to indicate it was his place to begin and he looked at his plate. He didn't recognise anything and looked at her curiously, but she gave no indication that she was willing to explain the meaning of any of the items. He considered carefully.
Everything in Minbari society seemed to have a meaning, and colours were a part of that. The food on his plate seemed to be arranged and chosen according to colour. Something green, something brown, something black, something grey (which looked particularly unappetising), something white, something red. The red he'd seen before as the Minbari red-fruit seemed to be a part of most ceremonies, but he wondered if it would be the right choice now. He looked up again, trying to gauge Delenn's reactions, but while she was watching his fork intently a poker player could have taken lessons from her expression. He sighed and looked again. He was tempted by the white, but suspected that might be wishful thinking. Black was out. That was always a negative as far as he could tell, and her comments on the robe helped to enforce that. Red suggested re-birth, but was also part of a marriage ceremony. He was already married to Delenn, and he'd gone through the re-birth too. He had no idea what brown or green stood for, so that left a choice between those and the Grey. Grey was always considered the middle way, but then Delenn could be seeing Lyta as the person in the middle. He couldn't deny what was about to happen, and the Grey Council (for all the faults) were supposed to be wise. /Understanding is a three edged sword. Your side, their side, and the truth/ Grey was half way between the extremes of black and white. To hell with it, he was getting hungry, and no matter what he did he was sure there'd be something negative in it. Hell, even his hesitation was probably making the situation worse. The grey goop looked positively disgusting, but he got some anyway and ate it.
Delenn sighed and speared the black. Her choice seemed to indicate things were pretty bad, and he put his fork down and looked at her. He'd had enough of this. While she was trying very hard to cover her emotions with duty and ceremony, he could see she wasn't happy. Depression on this scale just wasn't her. She had closed her eyes in meditation, and he decided to become impromptu. He picked up a piece of the red fruit with his fingers, breaking it into two. He pressed it to her lips and saw her gasp. Opening her mouth to accept the offering she then opened her eyes and watched him eat the other half. A smile spread across her face and he grinned. He'd got something right at last! He decided to risk a question.
'Does the order in which I eat the rest of it mean anything, or have I passed?'
'Your choices were wise. Wiser than I could have hoped. It indicates you appreciate the situation is a difficult one. You do not believe the result will be negative, but you do not think it will be without consequences. But the offer of the red-fruit was a reaffirmation of your love for me.'
'Wouldn't it have been easier to simply tell me what it all meant to start with? I mean, presumably the Minbari who have engaged in this ritual know the meanings of the foods and their choice would be more informed than mine could be?'
'The colour and substance is a matter for the surrendering partner to decide. It changes for each ceremony. You cannot know in advance what you are doing. It is said the universe guides our hands in this. It is considered, um...what is the word in your language. An oracle?'
'And for the rest of the meal?'
'The order no longer matters. However, I would personally recommend the brown. It's delicious. Oh, and you do not have to meditate.' She smiled and laughed. The first laugh he had heard all night. His heart swelled with joy at the sound and he expertly speared a piece of the brown and chewed carefully. His mouth flooded with flavours and sensations. It was the most astonishing combination and he looked at her, delighted. Her smile spread wider and they continued the meal in pleasant companionship, pausing occasionally to look at each other which, to Sheridan, was all the meditation he needed.
When it was finished he sat back, satisfied. While Minbari food never left you feeling full, it did seem to be chosen and prepared in such a way that it refreshed the system. He still longed for a juicy beef steak on a regular basis, (something close to impossible to get out here, but he had his sources) but he was becoming very used to Minbari food and found he liked it a lot. Life on Minbar wouldn't be so bad as long as this standard was maintained.
Delenn rose gracefully, bowed, and headed for the bedroom. He looked at the table. Was he allowed to do the washing up? She'd said he wasn't supposed to do anything, but he hated to leave it. He tidied it away as quickly and as quietly as he could. He heard the shower unit being turned on and, as he was just cleaning the debris from the last bowl to put in the cleaner, he heard Delenn's voice emanating from the bathroom.
'John. It is time.'
Stowing the bowl in the rack and activating the cleaner he walked to the bedroom and saw Delenn standing in the doorway to the shower, naked. His breath caught at the sight. No matter how many times he saw her like this, the effect never seemed to lessen. He walked towards her, fully intending to take her in his arms and kiss her, but she held him back and undid the belt to his robe. As she slipped it from his shoulders she saw his arousal and a small smile crossed her face before it was quickly schooled back to seriousness. She drew him into the shower and began to wash him. Again he tried to touch her, and again she pushed him away.
'Acceptance, remember? You must not touch me or help me.'
He looked down. 'Um, Delenn, it's gonna be very hard not to soon. Especially in this small space.'
Her face twitched as she stifled a smile and looked up at him. He had his hands behind his head in order to facilitate her movements and prevent himself from violating the taboo. He smiled down at her and she returned it, all the while soaping her hands.
'Am I allowed to talk, or is that not allowed either?'
'Talking is not usual, but there is no rule. You may talk if you wish.'
'Then I will.'
She reached up to rub his right hand, then his arm, raising a foam in the hair of his armpit before moving down his side and then across his stomach. She worked her way up the other side finishing with his fingers.
'Is there an order in which you must wash me?'
'And will you explain the reasons behind it?'
'No. I will let you work them out for yourself.' She grinned and worked her way down his legs, carefully washing his feet, and then asked him to turn around, leaving his chest, face and genitals untouched. He did as requested and felt her scrub over his back, working her way down to his buttocks. When she was done she asked him to turn back. She grabbed the shampoo and he bent down so she could wash his hair. Then he closed his eyes as she washed his face. He felt her scrub his beard and moustache and sighed as she dealt with an annoying itch. Moving down to his chest she paused for a moment, her hand over his heart. The desire to respond overcame him and he quickly closed his hand over hers, reaching out to return the gesture. She shrank from his touch, pulling her hand away and frowning at him.
'I'm sorry. I just wanted to let you know how I feel.'
Silently, she scrubbed her hand and then returned to washing his chest, again pausing over his heart. This time he remained still. After a few seconds she moved down to his genitals. At the first touch of her hands he responded, and as she continued he felt himself stiffen. Her touch was gentle and sure, and he understood why she had saved this ministration until the last. By the time she finished he was longing to either get to the bedroom, or take her there and then. She turned the shower off and stepped out, reaching for the towel. He followed her and sighed as she gave him a brisk rub down, moderating her touch on his face and genitals.
When she had finished she ushered him into the bedroom, pausing in the bathroom a while longer to dry herself. He stretched out on the bed, his skin tingling in the afterglow of the shower and rub down. When she entered a minute later he immediately moved the cover aside on the bed for her to lie beside him. She shook her head.
'Lie in the middle of the bed, John. And remember, you must not do anything.'
She grinned. 'Well, natural reactions are permitted, but you must not touch me with your hands or anything under your control.' She looked at his arousal for a moment and then chuckled. 'And I will tell you now, if you CAN keep that under control with what I am about to do, I will be VERY disappointed!'
His penis jumped at her words. 'Can't wait. Is that a challenge?'
'You'll see. Now close your eyes.'
'But I want to watch!'
'And I want you to feel, not see.'
'All right, all right! They're closed, OK? But this is gonna make it very difficult.'
'Perhaps. No peeking!'
He grinned and shut his eyes tight. She got a bottle of oil from the bedside table and poured some into her hands. Sheridan turned his head towards the scent and sniffed the air, curious.
'What's that? I've never smelt anything like it before.'
'It is from Minbar. We find it enhances the sexual experience.'
'Why haven't we used it before?'
'I didn't think we needed it!' He chuckled and Delenn paused for a while, watching him. After a minute or so he spoke.
'Is there something wrong?
'No, nothing. I was just thinking.'
She tried to cover her lapse of concentration. 'Perhaps meditating would be better.' Sheridan nodded and she continued, 'Now roll over onto your stomach.'
He obeyed and she began to rub the oil into his back. She kneaded his shoulders and neck teasing out the tensions, and then worked her way down his spine. She paused, thoughtfully at one point and he turned his head. 'More meditation?'
'If it were, you would have just ruined it by speaking to me. No, I was just thinking that this must be causing you some pain.' She moved her hands down his back and then veered off, pressing at a point in his back. He stifled a grunt.
'Nnhh. How did you know?'
'Because I can feel it is out of place.' She moved back to his spine and placed her hands around it moving in an odd pattern he couldn't fathom. Suddenly, smoothly, she pushed the joint back into place, running her hands down the rest of his spine and correcting two more points before returning to his muscles.
He stretched. 'Hmmm. Feels like I've got a new back! You should become a chiropractor.'
'You are a full time job.' She poured more oil on her hands and stroked upwards from his feet, kneading his calves and thighs with a deep massage that seemed to go right through to the bone, then soothing them with another touch. One was an excruciating ecstasy, the other a balm that seemed to bring energy pouring into him. As she rose to his buttocks his back arched at her touch. She smiled quietly to herself, and then insinuated her hands between his thighs, separating them. He adjusted his position and groaned as she poured some of the oil so that it flowed between his buttocks, over his anus and down to his testicles. She smeared it over his testicles, gently manipulating them with her fingers, and then pulled back slowly, spreading the cheeks and rubbing his anus. Again, his back arched and he stifled a groan. She pressed slightly harder, insinuating herself carefully and stimulating him, the oil easing her passage. As her finger worked into him, her other hand continued to manipulate and stroke his testicles. His groans became more insistent and his breathing ragged. Satisfied she had achieved her aim for now, she withdrew and eased herself up the bed, stroking her hands up his back. When she reached his neck she licked and sucked him, moving up to his ear with her tongue.
'Does that feel good, John?' she whispered. 'Do you know how much I love you?'
He nodded, and his voice was a passionate whisper. 'Hmmm. Yeah.'
Her hands moved to his sides and she stroked over his ribs as she continued to kiss and whisper to him. 'I want to take you. All of you. I want to make you mine.'
'I'm already yours.'
'You are and will be. As I am yours. I want to see you lose control under my touch. No one can hear you, no one can see you but me.' Her voice was low, seductive, arousing. The scent of the oil filled his nostrils. She moved up his arms and lay over him, holding him down and pulled her lips across his throat where his position exposed it to her. She pressed her body against him, rubbing the oil into his skin and her own with slow, sensual movements. He began to move in counterpoint. It was an instinctual reaction but she stilled him. 'Shh. Not now. After you have been with Lyta, but not now.' She stroked down his arms and got onto her knees, helping him to roll over. She poured more oil onto her hands and stepped off the bed to work her way up his legs. Reaching the top of his thighs with the same combinations of pressures that had filled him with fire before she bypassed his genitals to begin again at his face.
He shied away from her as she went to touch his eyelids. She interpreted his movement and paused.
'Do not worry. This oil cannot harm you. It is completely natural and even if it did touch your eyes, it will not sting. I promised you, I would not harm you. Shh.'
She raised her hands again and this time he didn't move. Stroking outwards from the centre she pressed slightly on the lids before moving down his cheek. She stroked her fingers across his lips and then slid outward across his cheeks and up to his temples. There she paused, circling his temples and applying a gentle pressure as she rotated first one way and then the other. He sighed and she leaned forward to kiss him. She licked each eyelid and then pressed her mouth to his. Before he had a chance to respond she pulled away and began to stroke over his skin, light as a feather. She brushed the tips of her fingers across his forehead, moving slowly down to his cheeks and thence back to his temples. She paused and then went through the same movements again. She was barely touching him and his nerves grew more sensitive as they strained to detect her touch. Again she paused, long enough that he moved his head, sniffing the air in an effort to find her by the strong scent of the oil on her hands.
'No more talk.' She touched him again, and this time his nerves were on fire, desperately trying to follow her touch no matter how faint. Satisfied she had turned on every nerve in his face, she leant forward and kissed his cheek, slowly dragging her lips and tongue across his forehead and then moving to his eyelids. She kissed each one, moving her tongue across them and pressing on them. She could feel his eyes moving underneath as he tried to understand what she was doing without being able to see or touch her.
Pulling back again she began the same process on his chest and stomach. Feather-light touches which spread down his throat and over his nipples. Circling them a few times she moved down to his sides and then made small circles on his stomach. After a minute or two she stopped and held still, waiting for his nerves to reach out for her touch before starting again. On the third time he was clearly straining to hold still. She poured more oil on his chest and stomach and he shuddered. Pressing her breasts to him she spread the oil over his body, being careful not to touch his penis.
His hands opened and closed as he struggled to hold still and she moved herself over to kiss the palms and stroke her cheek against them. His fingers flickered and she saw him draw deep breaths into his lungs. She moved up his arm, letting him feel her cheek and soft mouth as she moved across his chest and down towards his thighs. She interspersed firm kisses with a gentler pressure, dragging her lips across him. She stopped short and paused again. Then he felt her fingers lightly stroke over his lower stomach and move to his knees, before slipping to the inside of his thighs and caressing him, stroking up towards his crotch. She traced the line where the seam of his trousers would normally lie, and as she neared the top she gently pushed his legs apart, stretching the tendons a little. Once again she touched and then paused. Touched and paused. By the third time he was becoming desperate. Her touch was almost painfully slow and gentle, and she always stopped short of his genitals.
She smiled to herself, and then knelt between his legs and bent down. He felt a breath on his thigh which moved upwards. As the heat and moisture reached his penis he groaned and clenched his fists, forcing his arms into the bed in an effort to keep control. She breathed on his penis, moving the hairs at the base lightly, delicately. She didn't touch him, but her mouth was close enough that he was certain the slightest movement would bring him into contact with her. He shifted slightly, and felt her move away. Once he'd settled down again she moved back, touching the tip of her tongue to his penis.
She circled the top of it lightly, and then teased the tip, stroking back and to before moving forwards to take the very end between her lips. He felt her tongue press against him and her lips move down slowly, and then withdraw. He was getting used to the pattern, but that only made it worse. Three. It was always three, with each time growing more intimate and arousing. It was the most exquisite torture he had ever experienced. As her tongue and lips moved down his penis he shuddered. At the bottom of the glans she circled her tongue around him for a moment before advancing further. Nearing the base he felt her slow even more to ease his penis into her throat. As he felt her touch the base with her tongue his back arched and his hips thrust upward. Immediately, she pulled back, waiting for him to settle down again before advancing. Again, he felt himself shaking as she neared the bottom. His breath was becoming ragged and he fought to overcome the instinctual need to thrust upwards as she circled the base. Again he lost and again she pulled back.
He lost the fight to keep from speaking. 'Delenn! Please! Oh my god. Take it!'
She closed her mouth around him and worked downwards. Taking all of him she held there, moving her tongue around his penis before thrusting it forwards and stroking across his testicles. Again he thrust upwards and she gagged slightly before she managed to regain control and hold him. She reached between his thighs and stroked his testicles, following the line from the base of his penis towards his anus. She continued to move her tongue around his penis, alternating between the sides. She felt his testicles pull back into his body and she stopped, holding completely still.
As the sensations ceased he felt his body relax once more. After a while his testicles lowered again and she pulled off him completely, kissing and licking her way up his body once more to his face. She pressed her lips to his and pushed her tongue between them, gaining entry to his mouth. She explored the inside of his lips and then pressed deeper between his teeth until she made contact with his tongue. He responded, reaching out for her, and this time she didn't withdraw. As she kissed him she eased herself up on the bed, straddling his thighs. She pulled away from his mouth and reached down to take hold of his penis and guide it into her. As before she advanced and then retreated. His head was moving from side to side as he struggled to detect sounds and scents to fill in the gaps caused by her insistence that he keep his eyes shut. His fists opened and closed and he beat on the mattress. She lowered herself a piece at a time and he felt himself losing control. As she took him all his hips thrust upward and again she withdrew.
She lowered herself again, pausing halfway and clenching the muscles around his penis. Raising herself again she hesitated and then lowered herself the whole way. She ground her hips against him, riding him slowly and then speeding up. He was on the edge and she reached down behind her to stroke his testicles again. His body was a surging miasma of sensations, centring on her touch. She was aroused, wet and warm, and she enveloped him, going down hard and encouraging him with every touch. He could hear her breathing grow faster, shallow and ragged. Feel her fingers stroking him, and smell the oil as their body heat caused the perfume to evaporate into the air. He could feel and think of nothing else but the sensations she allowed him, but his whole body was awash with them, like a fire burning through him. He felt himself tense and knew he could do nothing but surrender to her. He had to give her everything he had, everything she wanted. As he tensed she withdrew and then impaled herself, feeling him thrust upwards and explode within her.
A cry grew in his chest, rumbling up his throat before ripping the air apart as he was finally given release. Never had he experienced such an intense orgasm. Never had every nerve of his body been so alive and sensitive. Delenn gripped him tightly, milking him for every drop he had. When she felt the rush end she lay upon him, pulling his arms around her. A signal that now he could touch her. He did not need any further encouragement and he opened his eyes, blinking the sweat from the lids. She kissed him, licking the salty drops away. He held her so tightly it almost hurt and she kissed his throat and then fastened onto his mouth. As their tongues entwined he released his grip enough to rub her back before hugging her again. Finally, he rolled her over and smothered her with kisses, his weight pressing her down.
It was a long time before he became articulate once more, and when he finally found words, they were not enough. He held her and hugged her, whispering words of love between the rain of kisses and caresses he bestowed, but nothing he could say captured the soaring emotions and desperate need he had for her. Finally they lay, arms around each other, revelling in the feeling of togetherness, and fell asleep.
On another part of the station, Lyta felt the rush of love emanating from Sheridan and Delenn and smiled. She'd been working all day on what she could do to make Delenn's gift to her one she would never regret. She was tired to her marrow, and her eyes glowed in the aftermath of her exertions. But she had her answer, and knew it would be the greatest gift she had to give.
Sheridan was working in his office when Lyta found him the next day. She hesitated in the doorway, wondering whether she was still welcome. He carried on with his work, apparently unaware of her presence. She was just about to leave when...
'Come in Lyta. If you stand in the doorway much longer Mr Garibaldi will think I've finally decided to have a bodyguard,' he put down his pen and looked up, 'and I'm not sure I could cope with the sight of him dancing a jig.'
She smiled and walked in, but she couldn't bring herself to sit down. He stood up, stretched and watched her, curiously. 'Is there something wrong with the chair?'
'Look, um, I don't quite know how to say this, but, well...' she threw up her hands and sat down heavily. 'Strong emotions are hard to block out at the best of times. Last night, I could sense you from the other side of the station.' She left the question unasked, but Sheridan shook his head and walked over to her chair, squatting down beside her and taking her hand in his.
'It's OK. Delenn understands. I love her, Lyta. You know that. But I need you too.' He smiled and gripped her hand tightly, reassuring her with his touch. She watched his face, seeking permission. He nodded, and she slipped inside, finding him there. 'It's OK, Lyta. Really.'
Lyta saw there was no darkness around him. No lies or prevarications. Somehow, and she wasn't sure quite how, Delenn had accepted this enough that Sheridan felt completely comfortable with her feelings and his own. She shook her head. 'You two are remarkable.'
He shook his head. 'She is, and YOU are. Not me.' He took her in his arms and held her 'I'm a lucky man.'
Within his mind she buried her head in his chest, savouring the warmth which radiated from him. It was an image, not physical reality, but the illusion of his touch was so strong that she felt her body reacting to it, and she withdrew, to find his hands still holding hers, and his eyes closed. As she watched he looked at her, raising her hand to his lips and kissing the back of it. Then he stood up and looked over to the doorway. She sensed a presence and instinctually drew herself up in the chair, keeping her eyes on Sheridan. He walked over to the door and she heard the sounds of two people hugging. Turning around carefully she saw him holding Delenn who had just walked in. As he released her, Delenn turned to Lyta and bowed.
'Lyta. I hope you are well?'
It was a formal greeting, and Lyta stood to return it, still trying to work out from body language how Delenn felt about the situation. 'Yes, thank you.'
Sheridan looked from one to the other. To say the situation was awkward would be an understatement. Someone had to sort this out. He drew breath but Delenn cut him short.
'Lyta, is 7pm tonight still acceptable to you?' Lyta stared, stunned. Delenn was so business-like. So matter of fact it knocked the wind out of her. She tried to articulate a reply but the best she could manage was a nod. Delenn acknowledged it. 'Then we will see you then. John, will you be free for lunch? I have some business from Minbar that needs to be addressed.'
Sheridan smiled ruefully, 'When isn't there? Would the Zocalo be all right, or shall I order in here?'
'Here I think. We will need some privacy. The other ambassadors will NOT be pleased.'
Lyta stood up. 'Um, look, would you like me to go? I mean, this isn't any of my business.'
Delenn smiled. 'Anything we do or say until tonight will be in our minds. There is little point in asking you to leave when you will know everything in advance.' She looked at Lyta for a moment and then added, 'and I believe a show of trust is appropriate under the circumstances.'
Sheridan, standing behind Delenn, smiled and leaned on his desk, flicking through the flims scattered across its surface.
Lyta shook her head. 'I appreciate this, Delenn, really I do, but I think it would be better if I left. Politics give me a headache anyway.' She smiled at both, acknowledging Delenn's bow and Sheridan's nod before leaving.
Sheridan turned to Delenn. 'That was tactful.'
'What did you expect? Lyta has always been considerate of other's feelings and needs. You just haven't noticed.'
He grunted. 'Another reminder?'
She crossed the room and stroked his cheek. 'No more reminders. I think we have enough to deal with for now.'
Another grunt, 'Speaking of which, have you seen the latest reports about Centauri Prime?' He handed her the flim and they sat down to talk it over.
Lyta sat in the garden, practising the skills she would need tonight. It was hard without the minds that would be affected, but the disciplines and projection preparations could be readied. Had anyone come across her they would have seen her eyes glowing with her efforts. As she worked she felt the power build in her.
She almost choked. The power instantly dropped and she worked to bring it back. As it developed the voice returned.
'Very good. You have learned a lot in such a short time.'
'Lorien?' In her mind she saw him come towards her. 'What are you doing here? HOW did you get here?'
'Your connection to Sheridan is stronger than you know.' She sighed and he tilted his head. 'There is a problem?'
'Sheridan and Delenn seem to have come to terms with this. I'm not sure I can. I mean, I'm going to sleep with him.'
'You are going to join with him. That is not the same thing.'
'So I leave immediately afterwards, terrific!'
Lorien had that curious half smile that she interpreted as tolerant amusement. 'You have come so far, yet there is still much you need to learn about the universe and the powers that hold it together. What you call sex is merely a physical expression, the true connection between souls lies elsewhere.'
'I know. But that's even more intimate.'
'You all need to understand. Who are you and what do you want? You are finding the answers to those. Why are you here and where are you going? Those are still to be determined. This will show you all the way.'
Lyta shook her head. 'I think it's going to take a lot more than one night.'
'You have eternity.' He paused at Lyta's obvious confusion. 'There is much you have yet to learn. It will come, in time. Your gift will become the path.'
His image began to fade. 'Wait! I want to talk to you!' But he had gone. Lyta shook her head. 'Now I know where the Vorlons got it from!'
She sat on the grass for a while, trying to summon Lorien's image once more, but she couldn't find him. She worked on the disciplines she had been practising, and found she had done all she could without Sheridan and Delenn's presence. She looked at her chronometer. It was nearly time. She would just be able to have a shower and change before going to Delenn's quarters. Her stomach growled and she repressed the hunger.
'Hope there's some food. I'm starving!' She got up and left the garden.
Lyta stood outside Delenn's quarters, wondering whether to ring. It would be so easy to just walk away, maybe even get the next transport off the station. It wasn't that she didn't care about Sheridan. Quite the opposite, in fact. She cared about him a great deal, and she didn't want their newly reformed friendship to go sour. Yet surely if by her actions she affected his relationship with Delenn, if she became an obstacle between them... She shook herself. No. That wasn't going to happen. She had the gifts the Vorlons had given her, and a few more skills she had learned from her touch with Lorien. By the time she finished tonight, Sheridan and Delenn would be...
'Lyta, why are you standing out here?' While she'd been contemplating her options, Sheridan had opened the door. Now he stood aside to allow her entrance. She looked into his eyes and he smiled. 'Come in, it's all right.'
She stepped past him and heard the door close behind her. She was faced with a room glimmering in candlelight, the crystals reflecting their flickering warmth over the walls and ceiling. Delenn stepped from the bedroom and bowed. Lyta returned it and felt Sheridan's reassuring touch on her shoulders. Where skin touched skin she felt intense desire, but she wasn't sure whose feelings she was experiencing. She looked around at Sheridan and he nodded. Delenn proffered a gown, and Lyta took it, feeling the silky texture for a moment before drawing a deep breath. Last chance to back out.
'Um, look, Delenn. Ah... I'm not sure... well, I'm not sure if this...'
'Do you not want him?' Delenn's question stopped Lyta in mid thought.
'Not WANT him? Delenn, he's your husband! I'm just... just.' She stopped, she didn't know WHAT she was.
'The Minbari word is 'V'hac'tur' It is difficult to translate into your language. Um, perhaps, 'other piece'? No, that sounds wrong.'
Lyta shook her head 'Sounds right to me.'
'No, there is the implication of a part of the whole that is missing. More like 'rest of the soul' The piece that makes the rest complete. That is what you are, Lyta. That is why you came here tonight. But now I must be sure. Do you want him? I cannot offer that which you will not willingly accept.'
'John is not mine to give, that choice is his. I can only give my trust in him and you, and my right to be the only one by his side. If you do not want the place I offer; if you cannot give him what he needs; if you cannot accept what *you* need, then nothing tonight will have any meaning. For the third and final time I ask: 'Do you want him?''
As Lyta hesitated Sheridan turned her gently and forced her to look into his eyes. As his fingers touched her face he uttered one word 'Please.'
His touch was electric, and she felt herself nodding, though she wasn't aware of the order being passed to her muscles. When she spoke her voice was a whisper, but it filled the room 'Yes.'
He kissed her forehead. 'Good.' Taking her hand he led her to the bedroom. She was slightly startled until she realised they were offering her somewhere to change. As the doors closed behind her she paused to consider the angled Minbari bed. She was still looking at it as, with shaking hands, she removed her clothes and slipped on the grey robe. She folded her clothes neatly, putting them on a chair, and then went to the bathroom. Looking in the mirror she noticed her face was flushed. She doused herself with cold water. She HAD to keep a clear head tonight. She leaned on the sink unit and looked at herself.
'You know that isn't going to happen, Lyta,' she muttered. 'Face it. You love the man. You've wanted to do this for years. You just didn't anticipate it happening quite like this.' She remembered the dreams she'd had. Dreams that had forced her to take a cool shower when she woke up. How often she'd imagined those strong arms around her, his hands stroking over her body, the fire of their love-making coursing through mind and body as she taught him how a telepath makes love. She felt her nipples hardening under the gown at the thought of it and groaned. Oh god he turned her on! In deference to Delenn she'd always tried to smother her feelings, but now... She heard the doors to the bedroom slide open and Sheridan knocked on the bathroom door.
'Lyta? You ok?'
That voice! To hear him whisper in her ear as he entered her, arousing her further merely by words and groans.
She steadied herself. 'I'll be out in a second.' She concentrated and drew some semblance of composure around herself before opening the door to meet his concerned face.
'You sure you're ok?'
'I'm fine. Really. Just feel a little weird.'
'I know what you mean. C'mon. Delenn's made something for us all.'
As she walked out of the bedroom she realised she was already powerfully aroused. Could he sense it? Was it empathy, telepathy, or simple pheromones that led her to notice his own interest? She sat down carefully at the place set aside for her and watched the others seat themselves around the table. There was only one dish, and she didn't recognise it, but then, she wasn't all that up on Minbari culture.
'This is called 'Bish'sah'renn'. It's made from a plant that grows in the warmer regions of Minbar, and is very rare. It has been found to have many useful properties. We give it to our warriors in battle when they have need of a restorative. You have fasted, and tonight will be exhausting in both mind and body. This can both restore the physical health, and enhance mental faculties, making those eating it more aware of telepathic contact. Being aware it also helps you either raise protective barriers, or immerse yourself in the contact.' She smiled. 'I know you are strong, Lyta, but I didn't think you would mind a little help from us.'
Lyta saw there were 9 pieces of the pale yellow food and watched as Delenn placed three on each plate. Then she picked up a long, thin piece of metal and activated a button on the side. A small flame appeared at the end. Sheridan picked up a similar object and indicated the one to the side of Lyta's own plate. When all three were alight Delenn motioned for them to join together, forming one flame which then was lowered to light the candle in the centre of the table. As it burned, the candle gave off a faintly sweet smell, not at all unpleasant, with a heady after tang which made Lyta blink as she realised it was touching her barriers, erected out of courtesy.
Delenn smiled. 'The candle wick is also made of Bish'sah'renn. Telepaths on Minbar find the plant slightly intoxicating. Perhaps you had better not rush the meal. Eat as much as you feel you need. You may leave the rest.'
Lyta nodded and watched as Sheridan and Delenn each took a mouthful. Sheridan's eyes widened as the plant had its effect and he turned to Delenn, grinning. Lyta picked up a piece on her fork and carefully nibbled on it. As it filled her mouth with flavour she took more, swallowing carefully. As soon as it hit her stomach she felt a warmth flood her body, invigorating every part of her, including those which were already quite awake and prepared. She stared at her plate. 'Wow!'
Sheridan laughed. 'Took the words right out of my mouth. Delenn, could we introduce this to the station's rations? This stuff is amazing.'
'I do not think that would be a good idea. It can be quite addictive, and we have found that with prolonged use there can be negative side effects. It is very powerful in small doses, but with repeated use it loses its efficacy.'
'Sounds like a drug.' Sheridan regarded his plate a little more warily.
'In many ways, yes. Tonight is the only night you will see it on this station. Do not worry. It is safe like this.' She took another mouthful and smiled.
Sheridan and Delenn cleared their plates. Lyta found that two pieces were as much as she could handle. The physical aspect she could cope with, but her mind felt like it was burning with a white light. She was sure she could pick out any mind on the station and listen in to their thoughts without any effort on her part or awareness on theirs. As for the minds nearest to her... well, she was glad her barriers were strong as the surface thoughts would be mentally deafening. The underlying ones would still be harder to hear, especially with the foreground noise, but she was certain they would still be amplified considerably and so make her job all the easier. She offered the remaining piece to the others. Delenn turned to Sheridan. 'the greater your telepathic gift, the greater the effect of the plant. All Minbari have limited telepathic talents. I think John should have the last piece.'
'Need all the help I can get, huh?' Delenn smiled and Sheridan took the last piece and chewed on it thoughtfully. 'Am I gonna be OK in council meeting tomorrow?'
'You may be a little more aware of the subterfuges going on. Nothing more.'
He grunted. 'In that case...' he swallowed the last piece and raised a glass containing some purple liquid. 'More of the same?'
'No. This is merely a fruit juice. It clears the palate and aids digestion. Nothing more.' Delenn downed hers swiftly, and then rose, moving the table out of the way. As she settled once more she looked at Lyta. 'You can lower your barriers, Lyta. They are not needed here.'
Lyta watched as Sheridan and Delenn joined hands and reached out to her. At the first touch of their fingers she drew back, startled at the flood of images and sensations flowing through the link. Re-erecting her half-lowered barriers to stem the flood a little she tentatively took their hands and closed her eyes, lowering the barriers little by little. As the flood threatened to swamp her she felt someone take control. Opening her eyes she saw Delenn, her brow furrowed in concentration. Taking a deep breath she opened every barrier, and called on every resource, smoothing the path and doing her best to organise everything as it came down the link.
'John, you must concentrate. There is too much.'
'It's all right, Delenn. I've got him.'
Delenn's brow relaxed as Lyta helped Sheridan take control of his thoughts and channel them. Once she was sure his control would hold she turned to Delenn, shoring up her limited talents and reinforcing them. She frowned and, blocking Sheridan briefly, she spoke telepathically to Delenn.
//You said no secrets, Delenn. You're holding a lot back. I can block them so John can't see the walls you have in place, or you will have to drop them. Which is it to be?// Opening her eyes Lyta saw a tear form and flow down Delenn's cheek. Then the walls were slowly dismantled, a piece at a time. All but one. As the full import of what lay behind those walls struck her, Lyta shuddered. She tested Sheridan's mind. There were no walls. Everything was open and available. She wondered how much of that was his open nature, and how much his own ignorance of how to hide such details. She decided that even had he known how to block them, he would have lowered the walls on this occasion. Sheridan was fundamentally an honest soldier. He understood the necessity of politics, but the lying and subterfuge annoyed him. He was uncomplicated and, in many ways, a bit naïve. He had become the pivot of a complicated web of intrigue and manoeuvring which he was determined to make work by dint of sheer hard work. No wonder his heart had given up on him that night. It was a miracle it hadn't done so sooner. The extra work he was handling was a self imposed discipline that he hoped would make up for his own tendency to trust others. His fascination with black projects helped, but that was an academic interest and not in his nature. He'd learned enough over the past few years to know the world simply didn't work the way he wanted it to, but he was still dreamer enough to hope that one day it would. Delenn was more experienced and practical. Her years on the Grey Council had taught her a lot, as had her struggles in the Shadow War. But her post-chrysalis state had left her at the mercy of emotions which often threatened to overwhelm her. Sheridan was a steadying influence. A rock against which she could lean in times of adversity. Lyta realised Delenn needed Sheridan's dreams and strength as much as he needed her practicality and ability to plot behind the scenes. They complemented each other perfectly.
//What of the last one Delenn?//
Delenn's thought shot back. //Not yet. He will not be able to concentrate. I will tell him afterwards.//
Realising exactly what it was she was holding back and why, Lyta carefully placed a shield so that Sheridan would be unaware of the single secret Delenn would reveal to him later, and dropped all the barriers between them on a last thought 'Where the hell do I fit into so perfect a combination?'
As Sheridan saw what Delenn had been holding back a fury built in him. Delenn steeled herself for the backlash and Sheridan felt a terror wash over her. Terror of losing him. An overwhelming fear of being alone in a friendless world, and of shattering his trust. The trust that had made her hide these things in order to protect both of them. Her love was genuine. She feared he would not understand, but here, where all reasons could be known, he DID understand. His anger subsided to be replaced with a tenderness that made Lyta's heart skip a beat. He really had come back from the dead for Delenn. Their love for each other had no limits. Again, Lyta wondered how she could possibly add anything to this. Why had Sheridan insisted on this union?
Sheridan felt her confusion and projected his reasons to both of them. As once again she saw their shared awareness of the First Ones, their common understanding of how the universe and everything within it was bound together, she saw herself as Sheridan saw her. At first, she barely recognised herself. There were so many gaps in his understanding. She tried to fill in as many as she could, and as she did so she saw Delenn begin to understand what had drawn them together. Here was something she had never understood, because for all Lyta and Sheridan could project the facts of it, and even some of the emotions, there was still something that she would only know once she actually experienced these things first hand. Her experience in the Starfire wheel (one more experience she had hidden which caused Sheridan to shudder and tighten his grip on her hand) helped somewhat, but that was more sheer pain than revelation. Lyta felt Delenn's frustration and, in a secret corner of her mind she kept carefully shielded, she smiled. By the end of the evening, Delenn WOULD understand.
While she was distracted with these thoughts, she heard a gasp from Delenn, followed by a low chuckle from Sheridan. Returning her attention to the connection, she realised they had both seen her thoughts in the bathroom. Somewhat sheepishly she sent an apology but Delenn's thoughts stopped her.
'No. It is good. I just had no idea John had that effect on others as well.'
Lyta giggled. 'Thank god you can't hear half of the females on this station. Not to mention some of the men.'
Sheridan choked and Delenn broke the link to thump him soundly on the back. Gasping for breath he looked at Lyta 'Men??!!'
Lyta shook her head. 'Let's not go there.' Delenn was smiling at Sheridan's obvious discomfort, while the latter was turning scarlet.
'It pleases me to know he is considered, how do you put it? 'Quite a catch'?'
'Uh huh. He's the hero in shining armour around here.'
Sheridan tried to get a grip on his embarrassment as Delenn said 'Your Arthurian legend again.'
'I just hope I'm not going to become a female Lancelot, or Morgan le Fey.'
Delenn paused to consider all she had seen and shook her head. 'No. Not now.' Without further comment she announced 'It is time,' and stood up. 'We understand each other. The ritual must be completed. I have seen how each of you know so much and yet lack the connections. You understand as much as you can about our relationship, and you have helped me to reveal those things which I feared would damage it. Thank you for that. Now you must be alone together. I will remain out here. I will not interfere. Whatever happens now is between you and John.' She turned to gather the plates on the table and Sheridan stooped to help her. 'No, John. Go. I will be here when you are ready, however long that may be.'
'And if it lasts too long? I mean, where are you going to sleep?'
She pointed to one of the couches, which he now noticed had a blanket and a pillow placed neatly at one end. 'If you do NOT stay with her all night I will be very disappointed in you.'
Reassured, Sheridan turned to Lyta. 'Lyta?' He reached out and took her hand in his, squeezing it gently. She nodded and together they walked into the bedroom, Sheridan pausing to close the doors behind him. 'Lights low.' He walked over to Lyta, pulling her into his arms. 'You're shaking.'
She pulled away a little, putting her hands on his shoulders and stroking his throat with her fingers. 'So are you.'
'I want this.' He reached up and pulled the clips from her hair, letting it fall around her shoulders. 'I want you so much.' He brushed the hair aside from her neck and kissed her at the base of her throat, working his way slowly around to the side where his lips could feel the blood pulsing through her neck. Moving up to her ear he whispered 'so very much.'
She put her hands on either side of his head, forcing him to look into her eyes. 'And I want you.' She pulled him into a kiss and he went willingly, feeling her tongue press against his lips and then push between them. As their tongues connected he felt a rush of passion. He went to remove her gown but she forestalled him, stepping away to undo the sash and ease it from her shoulders, letting it pool at her feet. 'You'll feel and know everything I'm feeling. I can't keep barriers in place when...'
'I don't want you to. I want to know what pleases you. I want to know what you're thinking and feeling every second.' He undid the sash of his robe and Lyta stepped forward to push it from his shoulders. She took in his lean and muscular build. For a man with a desk job he kept himself in good shape. Stress alone had led to his attack, which made her wonder at the levels of stress he was under. Perhaps she could help there, too.
He raised his eyebrows. 'What were you planning on?'
'Nothing. Well...something, but it's for afterwards. I think I can guarantee you'll like it.' She felt his mind reach out to hers, trying to find the answer, but she kept that part firmly locked off. 'Oh no you don't.'
He stopped. 'It's THAT easy? I just wondered what you were up to and I felt myself reaching out.'
'The Bish'sah'renn is remarkable. It seems like a more civilised version of Dust.'
'Hmm. That'll look good on ISN. The President of the Interstellar Alliance taking Dust!'
She stroked her fingers lightly over his chest and looked into his eyes. //I won't tell if you won't.//
He held her hand to his chest and then raised it to his face, kissing the palm. 'Come inside, Lyta. Know what I'm feeling. Join our minds and I'll do the rest.'
//I am here.//
He led her to the bed and they began to explore each other's body. She ran her hand down his side to his thigh, reaching around to come back up over his back. She paused at the base of his spine, circling the sensitive skin there lightly before rising to his neck and stroking her fingers through his hair. He cupped her breast, stroking the nipple with his thumb. She moaned and he kissed down her throat to her breasts, nuzzling between them before moving to one and taking the nipple in his teeth, grazing it lightly before sucking on it. She arched her back and pushed her fingers through his hair, pulling his face hard against her breasts. He inhaled deeply, kissing and licking first one, and then the other as she released her grip.
Suddenly, he felt an odd sensation. As though someone were sucking on his own nipples. Startled, he looked around, but they were alone. Lyta smiled.
//I told you. Every feeling, every touch.//
The notion was thrilling and terrifying. To know immediately whether or not what you think will give pleasure, actually does; that could be a little ego deflating. But also to be able to correct and adjust one's touch to generate the greatest pleasure, based not on moans, movements and encouragement, but on actual sensations. He found himself thinking how much easier relations would be if everyone could do this. Then he thought how much more awkward to know the truth even when you didn't want to know it.
//The blessing and the curse. That's why it's important to know how to turn it off as well.//
//But not tonight.//
//No. Not tonight.//
As the bond became stronger they felt everything. She knew exactly where to touch him. Where had become over sensitised, and where ached for her. She had experienced this before so suddenly becoming aware of sensation in places she didn't physically posses did not confuse her. Sheridan, on the other hand, was finding it hard to distinguish between his own feelings and hers, and his efforts to do so were dampening the experience.
//Don't try. Let them flow together. Experience it all and we'll share the pleasure.//
She felt his confusion and frustration at his own inability to separate the flood of sensations and realised he was still caught up in the notion that he was supposed to give her pleasure, and that in order to do that, he had to keep his own feelings apart.
//Here. Let me help you.// She pushed his hands away from her and stroked over his body with her fingers, keeping her own responses to a minimum. Sliding down the bed she kissed his stomach and parted his legs, stroking up the inside of each thigh, circling at the top, and then moving down again. She projected what she saw into his mind, associating the image with his own sensations. He could see her touch him, see his reactions and feel them as well. She kept her own feelings slightly blocked to help him, allowing him a little at a time to help him get used to it. He saw himself not as he knew himself to be - as he saw himself in the bathroom mirror - but as she saw him, and he looked different. Her eyes lingered on features he barely noticed; found attraction in aspects to which he gave little or no thought. Yes, she noticed those things he thought a woman would notice, but even there her perception was quite different to his own. That she was projecting a non-mirror image explained a little, as did the angle from which she was admiring him, but attached to her images were a whole barrage of feelings and associations completely alien to him. He saw his own body as something arousing and it felt strange. He lived in that body year in, year out, and Narcissus found no kindred spirit here.
He wanted to see how Lyta viewed herself in comparison to his own understanding of her. He grasped her shoulders and gently rolled her over onto her back to began his own exploration. As his fingers stroked over her he watched and felt her reactions. Her responses flooded his mind and his curiosity grew. As was his wont, he spoke softly, and felt the thrill his mere voice could engender in her. Again, it sounded different as it was reflected back to him and he experimented with cadence and phrasing, testing which combination would arouse her most
He felt an almost painful ache deep inside and he let his hands wander down to her thighs, slipping between them. The ache grew and he kissed her belly, parting her legs and working his way down until he could push his tongue between her labia and stroke her clitoris.
An electric shock seemed to pass through him and he paused before continuing the caress. The experience was different but yet similar to his own. The surge of desire, the longing, the rush in his mind and body: all these he knew. But to suddenly find a desire to be entered by another. And behind that desire an awareness that there would be some pain, albeit it quickly overcome, and variable, depending on the care with which the perpetrator inflicted himself. All this was unknown to him emotionally. The intellectual fact of it was one thing. The actual physical and emotional experience was quite different.
He'd paused too long, and he felt her body struggling to hold on to the fire. Quickly returning to his task he moved his tongue around her, teasing and flicking over her clitoris, pulling on the labia and finally pushing down to lick and then probe the opening.
Revelling in the sensation that flowed through her in response to his touches, he felt himself grow harder. If he wasn't careful, this would be over too soon. He tried his usual trick of thinking about the meetings he had to deal with the next day, but Lyta shook her head.
//No. Let it go. You can't stop yourself without stopping me.//
//Let it GO!// It was a shout in his mind.
He surrendered himself to the inevitable. Nuzzling her a little longer, he then pulled himself up, leaving his fingers to complete the task his tongue had started. Abandoning himself to the sensations he moved to enter her, but before he could do so she rolled him over onto his back and straddled him.
She lowered herself slowly and he felt the dual sensations of her body enveloping him and being entered. He felt himself pushing into her: the tightness of her vagina around him, and the feeling of being stretched to accommodate. Just as the stretching neared painful proportions he felt himself slip inside.
//Is it always like this?//
//It's been a while. And you're not small!// A chuckle followed her thought and he allowed himself a low growl in response. But at the back of his mind lurked the thought that perhaps he should be more careful of Delenn. //She's used to you.//
He grunted, and then gasped as she drove herself down on him. He reached for her breasts, fondling them as she rode him. An urgent demand made him drop one hand to her thigh and then slip it between her legs to stroke her clitoris. The combination of sensations was overwhelming and he felt himself lose control.
Lyta felt his orgasm rushing upon him and allowed the feeling to wash through her, driving her over the edge. As they came together it seemed as though his mind were exploding. Images and reflections on reflections. In the midst of all this he saw them floating together, writhing and twisting in a place otherwise devoid of light. The light of their passion making them a blinding oasis in the darkness. They blended together until they were one. All their experiences meshed together: the Vorlon Homeworld with all its seething mists of energy and gases. A world of minds and thoughts, with the only buildings a necessity of their work with other races; their shared experience of Kosh; his surrender on Z'ha'dum, and the gentle flow of energy into him which grew to a flood, rushing through his body to explode in his mind as life was returned to him.
She saw him alone in his Starfury, preparing for death. He saw her struggling for breath against Kosh Ulkesh as the latter demanded information of the death of his predecessor. She saw him frightened but determined, planning the destruction of the Minbari ship that had all but destroyed his own ship. He saw her training in Psi Corps, and the feeling of support and commonality that drew her to them, as well as the betrayal that forced her away. Kosh's death for him, Byron's for her. His torture at the hands of Earth force interrogators, and her being pressured into selling herself to Bester to survive. The programming of Garibaldi and the torture of Delenn at the hands of the Inquisitor.
At that last image, Lyta opened the connection she had planned.
In the other room Delenn stirred and then snapped upright. She had been meditating, sleep being impossible under the circumstances.
Sheridan gasped as he saw a white glow fill Lyta's eyes. The rush of orgasm was still on him, and he had no idea how long their sharing of thoughts had lasted, but now he found a third mind joining them.
Delenn started as her own body responded to the passions pouring in a torrent from the minds of the lovers. As the three blended in spirit, Lyta prepared their minds for the gift. Forming connections and igniting talents latent in all sentient beings, though long since lost from disuse, she drew them together. She could not give them the gift to listen to anyone, but she could let them hear each other. Bring them together in mind in the way Delenn had so wanted, and leave the gift with them.
The final explosion of power was all she had left, and as she felt the last connection between Sheridan and Delenn form she collapsed on his chest, exhausted and spent. Delenn fell forward onto the lounge floor, and Sheridan wrapped his arms around Lyta, supporting her while he fought to fill his lungs and cope with the dizzying rush of energy that filled his mind.
'Yes.' In a haze Sheridan saw the image of Lorien form. From his body flowed a light which acted like a balm on the three minds, soothing and restoring.
//My god! What happened?!// Even Sheridan's thoughts seemed laboured.
//What?// But the image of Lorien was fading. //Wait. What do you mean?//
He was gone. Sheridan fought to remain conscious, but a bone weary exhaustion overcame him, forcing his surrender.
When he awoke it was to the sound of the computer wake-up call.
'Computer. Silence alarm.'
In the stillness that followed he contemplated Lyta who was still wrapped in his arms. How he had managed to hold on to her he had no idea, but as he moved she stirred and looked up.
'God, I don't think I'll ever try THAT again!' She rolled off him and he sat up, rubbing his leg where her weight had sent it to sleep.
'What did you DO?'
She was about to respond when a cloud crossed her face. 'Oh hell! Delenn!'
She leapt out of bed and grabbed a dressing gown. Sheridan followed her example, and the two ran into the living room to see Delenn lying on the floor. Sheridan knelt beside her, stroking the hair away from her face.
'Delenn? Delenn!' As he was about to turn on Lyta and demand an explanation, Delenn stirred and opened her eyes. 'Delenn, are you ok?'
Delenn drew herself up and Sheridan helped her to the couch where she sat, a bemused expression on her face. As her silence lengthened Sheridan began to worry.
'Delenn? What's wrong? Please. Tell me if you're ok.' He turned to Lyta. 'What have you done to her?'
Lyta reached into Delenn's mind and found confusion. At the intrusion the confusion instantly righted itself and Delenn looked up as Lyta withdrew. She shook herself and then rubbed her hands which felt abnormally cool. Sheridan took her hands in his own and chafed them to bring the circulation back. She had fallen awkwardly and the combination of her own body weight and the cold floor had chilled them.
'I am all right, I think. Just a little chilled. Lyta, could you heat some water? Some tea would be welcome.'
Lyta nodded and went to the kitchen, turning on the water heater and setting up three mugs. Sheridan sat beside Delenn and held her, trying to warm her with his own body heat. He was still concerned, and he fought to keep his worries in check until she was ready to speak.
Delenn looked up curiously. //John?// He stared as her thought filled his mind. //John, I'm all right.//
//Delenn? What's happening?//
Lyta smiled to herself and looked in the 'fridge to see if there was any food. They all needed breakfast. Once she was sure John and Delenn were comfortable, she'd go back to her own quarters. She had no illusions as to how much her gift had taken out of her, and she suspected she'd sleep at least until the next day once she got back to her own room. But right now she was buoyed by a sense of achievement, and that would keep her on her feet for an hour or two. She went to the bedroom and put on her clothes. Coming back just as the water boiled.
Switching it off she poured the tea. As she brought it to the table she said 'Do you mind if I order some breakfast? Your 'fridge is a little empty.'
Sheridan nodded absently, his attention still on Delenn. Lyta went to the Babcom terminal and called up one of the cafes, ordering breakfast for 4. She knew they'd all be able to eat more than their usual amount this morning, and it might stop any unwanted questions. Three, given the time she had spent with Sheridan in Delenn's absence, could easily be correctly (but awkwardly) construed. Four was a business meeting. When she finished, she picked up her mug and settled herself in one of the chairs, watching the two through the steam from her mug.
//I can hear you! I can feel you. You've been sleeping on your leg.//
//Lyta was lying on it. Your hands are still cold, but I can feel the pins and needles starting.// He stared at her. //What? What is it? What's wrong?//
//Nothing. I just...// She turned to Lyta. 'Thank you. Oh Valen, thank you!' The joy that filled her flooded Sheridan's mind and he felt tears of joy well up and run down his cheek.
'You did this? How? Why?'
'One gift deserves another. I wasn't sure it would work, but you two are so close it was worth a try. I can teach you how to shield your thoughts when you have to. You're no match for Bester, and you can't talk to anyone else, but for what it's worth, there it is.'
The door chime interrupted any further comment and Lyta collected the delivery, the delivery boy acknowledging Sheridan's demand that it be billed to him. If he was curious as to why the President and First Lady of the Alliance were in their dressing gowns while a fully clothed but tired looking telepath was in the room with them, he made no comment, and being not possessed of a gossipy nature, the news never reached others' ears.
Lyta set the meals down and fetched plates and cutlery from the kitchen. As the rich aromas filled the room Sheridan and Delenn both realised they were hungry and set to with gusto, pausing occasionally to test and share their new awareness of each other.
Lyta ate quietly, letting them enjoy their new talent. When she was finished she got up to leave but Sheridan forestalled her.
'Lyta. I don't know what to say. We'll take you up on your offer. But how can we ever thank you?'
'No need. I've had my thanks. Last night was wonderful. Thank you. Both of you.'
'But this. It's so much...' He was at a loss for words.
Lyta smiled. 'You've opened up a whole new world to me. I've been more than repaid. I'll leave you now. I'm beat, and I think Delenn has something to tell you.'
Sheridan frowned and turned to Delenn. As Lyta watched, his expression went from questioning, to shock, to thrilled delight. As she left Sheridan was raining kisses on his wife, who hugged him in return. The two so lost in the joyful news they failed to notice her departure.
End: The Ties That Bind.
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